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Industry Insight

Dead Salmon, Exploding Colons, and the Mathematics of Ponytails Honored at Ig Nobel Prizes

Last week,

By Richard Romano
Published: September 28, 2012

Last week, the 22nd annual Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded at a lively Harvard University ceremony (Going Green’s invite must have gotten lost in the mail). The Ig Nobels fête researchers who have made legitimate, but often quite silly, contributions to science. The ceremony is basically a Monty Python-like parody of the actual Nobels. LiveScience has the scoop. Some of the winners in some key categories: Psychology: Dutch researchers received a prize noticing that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel tower seem smaller (“posture-modulated estimation,” as they have dubbed it). Talk about getting an eyeful. Neuroscience: American researchers found brain activity in a dead salmon, “demonstrating how susceptible brain scans are to false signals.” This could also apply to the Politics category, perhaps.... Medicine: French researchers who discovered how to prevent patients’ bowels from exploding during colonoscopies. And there’s nothing worse than a semi-colon. Fluid dynamics: Mechanical engineers at UC, Santa Barbara, for explaining why coffee tends to spill. I think they should get a proper Nobel for this one! Other prizes were awarded to British physicists who developed an equation describing the shape of ponytails, and to Japanese researchers who developed a device “that shuts people up by playing back the sound of their voice after a short delay, creating a jarring echo.” I can think of a few people I’d like to use this on. And:
The only honoree not in attendance Thursday night was the U.S. Government General Accountability Office. It won the literature prize for a treatise recommending the preparation of a report to discuss the impact of reports about reports.
How meta. And how ignoble...

Please offer your feedback to Richard. He can be reached at richard@whattheythink.com.



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