An Ig-Nobel AwardIn this blogposting…
* AGM XXIX-and-a-half
* Ig-Nobel Awards 2011
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!
THE IG-NOBEL AWARDS 2011
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 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.
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.
PUBLIC SAFETY PRIZE
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.
THE WORLD: A TRUCKSHUNTER GEOGRAPHY - ALGERIA
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.
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