An Ig-Nobel Award
In this blogposting…
* AGM XXIX-and-a-half
* Ig-Nobel Awards 2011
* Algeria
Proceed with caution...

Our Extraordinary AGM took place as arranged (at the last minute) today at the cafe of Saltwell Towers in Gateshead.

Oddly, it was better-attended than the ‘official’ AGM which took place last week.  I’m not sure how significant that is - and perhaps I shouldn’t think about it too much.

A typically good time was had by all, outside on the terrace in the lovely - though admittedly cool - mid-autumn sunshine.

My thanks to Vivienne (at whose behest the AGM took place), Sid, Hildie and Linda for yet another hugely enjoyable occasion; just what the doctor ordered!

I’m delighted to report that this year’s Ig-Nobel Awards were finally handed out in late September - and a bumper crop they are, too.

For those not ‘in the know’, Ig-Nobel Awards are made every year to people whose scientific researches are both intellectually satisfying and improbably funny.  To use the official blurb, they ‘are intended to celebrate the unusual, to honour the imaginative – and to spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.  They are awarded to people whose academic research makes us laugh - and makes us think, as well….’

Here are the year’s category winners.

Awarded to a team from the Netherlands, Hungary and Austria for their study which concluded that there was no evidence of contagious yawning amongst red-footed tortoises.
This is a picture of a red-footed tortoise, although I’m not sure whether it’s yawning or not.

This is truly exceptional.

A Japanese team is attempting to develop a new kind of public alarm to be used in the event of fire or other emergency.  Instead of making a loud noise, though - which would be useless for deaf people - they are designing an alarm which uses the pungent smell of Japanese horseradish - wasabi.

The prize was awarded for their work in determining the ideal density of any airborne horseradish aroma to be used in waking up sleeping deaf people.


Awarded to a joint Dutch, Belgian and British team who have demonstrated that people make better decisions about some kinds of things - but worse decisions about other kinds of things - when they have a strong urge to urinate.

This award has very personal resonances for me.  Paul Wappat once told me that he performed much better on-air if he was desperate to go to the toilet.  Naturally, I have always pooh-poohed this notion as mere broadcasters’ superstition - until now.

Awarded to Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Hmmmmmm.  Hey-ho.

Awarded - quite rightly, in my view - to John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which states: ‘To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.’

Perfection - and a theory I have undertaken to put into practice with the greatest urgency.

Awarded to a joint Canadian, American, British and Australian team for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.

Isn’t Nature wonderful?

Awarded to a joint Dutch and French team for their research into why discus throwers become dizzy and hammer throwers don't.  (Apparently, it’s something to do with centrifugal force during the wind-up spin.)

This is another classic.

The prize was awarded to…
Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954)
Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982)
Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990)
Lee Jang Rim of South Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992)
Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999) and
Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world would definitely end on October 21, 2011, a matter of days ago).

According to the citation, the Award was made because each of these splendid people ‘taught the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations’.

This Award was made to the astonishing Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank.
You can watch a video of him doing exactly that at:

Given to John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drove a car along a major motorway while a visor repeatedly flapped down over his face, blinding him.

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain of what these experiments showed.

Once you start investigating the Ig-Nobel Awards, it’s difficult to stop yourself getting hooked.  So, while I’m in the mood, here are some selections from previous years…

Aviation Prize...to a team who discovered that hamsters recover from jet-lag more quickly when given Viagra.
Biology Prize...to a Dutch researcher who took a census of all the mites and other life forms that live in people's beds.
Chemistry Prize….to a Japanese research chemist who extracted vanilla flavour from cow dung.
Economics Prize...to a Chinese man who patented a device to catch bank robbers by ensnaring them in a net.
Linguistics Prize….to a Spanish team who discovered that rats sometimes can't distinguish between Japanese played backwards and Dutch, also played backwards.
Literature...awarded to a lady called Glenda Browne for her magnificent and exhaustive study of the word "the".
Medicine...awarded to Dan Meyer and Brian Witcombe for investigating the side-effects of swallowing swords.
Physics:...awarded to two researchers for their theoretical study of how sheets become wrinkled.

All of them are now Honorary Truckshunters.

Thanks for the fascinating info you’ve already sent to me for the next instalment of our very own international encyclopaedia.

The subject this time is Algeria.  Get as many oddities and trivia as you can find to me via the usual channels.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Vivienne said...

Hi Folks!

I went to bed early after our exhausting day drinking tea/coffee/ cappuccinos on the terrace at Saltwell Towers, now I'm wide awake...and have been since 1pm!

I've posted three photos taken today on

Ian your list of Ig Nobel Awards has had be laughing! The one about the beetle trying to mate with a bottle reminded me of a day at our Farmers' Market, when a dog tried to mate with a porcelain pig, which was displayed on the ground by a sausage trailer!

Now about Algeria.....I'm sure it's a wonderful place, but to be honest I have absolutely no interest in its oddities & trivia....sorry! So I won't be researching the internet in the hope of uncovering how many earthquakes they've had in the last thousand years, or how many inhabitants write with their feet etc. Sorry! xxx

Vivienne said...

Now.... if you were still doing the Nightshift, Ian, I'm sure those mind-blowing facts about Algeria would make captivating listening.... especially when presented in your own informative & humorous style. Classic FM doesn't have the same appeal, even though I enjoy most of the music. xxx

Vivienne said...

You know how you're troubled with afterthought? (Well I am!) When I turned off my laptop & went to bed, I suddenly thought I'd said I'd been awake since 1pm. I meant 1am! Sorry! xxx

Hildie said...

Good morning .....
just had to drop by to say how lovely it was to see you people yesterday and to have caught up with Gerry last week .....
I'm still a huge fan of the TRUCKSHUNTER AGM
.... I'm heading for my 30th soon!
....... And, Ian, for Heaven's sake, please don't stop the oddities and trivia .....
what would I live on?!!!!

Hildie said...

Don't forget to snuggle up and enjoy your extra hour in bed, in the morning, you Truckshunters. According to the Daily Mail, it really is simple things like this that make us happy. In the paper today they discussed a poll which set out to find the
"Top 50 things that make people happy." Things such as .....
1. Finding a £10 note in an old pair of jeans.
2. A quick thank you from the boss.
3. Climbing into bed with freshly washed sheets.
4. Swimming in the sea.
5. Waking up on a sunny day.
6. Sitting in the sun.
7. Being surprised by a gift or flowers from someone.
8. Receiving a nice message from a loved one.
9. Hearing you've been promoted.
10. Receiving a thank you card in the post or a hand-written letter (wow, how long since I've had one of those!!)
11. Driving a car, with the window down, on a sunny day.
12. Winning £10 on the lottery.
13. Small, kind gestures from family or friends.
14. Booking a holiday.
15. Hearing your favourite song.
16. Finding a bargain.
17. Seeing an old friend.
18. Having a picnic.
19. A romantic night out.
20. Hearing a song that reminds you of your past.
21. Making a new friend.
22. Having a quiet moment to yourself.
23. Looking at old photos.
24. A walk in the country.
25. Waking up on a Saturday morning & realising it is the weekend.
26. Chocolate.
27. Eating cake.
28. Being told you look as if you've lost weight.
29. Hearing a baby laugh.
30. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands.

Awesome stuff !!

Ian Robinson said...

Vivienne...I'm cut to the quick.

Hildie...that's a very 'nice' list - but a bit too comfortably 'Daily Mail' for my liking. To balance it out, here are a few other things that, without any doubt at all, 'make people happy'...
30 Having sex
31 Seeing an enemy get their comeuppance
32 Being flirted with
33 'Schadenfreude' - smiling at other people's misfortunes
34 Finding something unusual to say about Algeria
35 Cigarettes
36 Alcohol
That's better!