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2005 IgNobel Prize Awards 88

Posted by Zonk
from the neuticals-is-a-great-word dept.
karvind writes "This week Nobel prizes in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine were announced. Keeping up with the tradition, the 15th Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was held at Sander's Theater at Harvard University. Winners include: Will Humans Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup? (Chemistry), Electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie "Star Wars" (Peace), The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley's Exploding Trousers (Agricultural History) and many more. Interestingly Roy Glauber, who for ten years has humbly swept paper airplanes on the stage at the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics. Archived video of the live webcast is also available for those who couldn't attend the ceremony."
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2005 IgNobel Prize Awards

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  • My favorite is that the Nigerian Scammers won for Literature...

    "...for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others -- each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them."

    LOVE IT!

    - Greg

    • Honestly, the creativity that scammers show is pretty amazing to see. Some of the stories/methods that they dream up in order to manipulate people into their scams are actually pretty amazing.

      If they weren't such bastards, I'd admire them ;)
      • by truckaxle (883149) * on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:24PM (#13743923) Homepage
        It is amazing that they are successful enough to warrant the amount of energy they spend in ah... marketing.

        I actual know a guy who was suckered in for over $180,000 including a good portion of his 401k. This fellow had the balls to have his story written up and printed in the local newspaper. His employment at the time was a personal finance consultant - hard to believe but true.

        He made 2 trips to France and the scammers just kept on milking him for money. First it was the very expensive solvent to remove the marks from the money. Then he actually got to see the big trunks of cash with NBS printed on the $100 dollar bills. From that point on - greed, centered in the old brain, took over and he paid for things like 15k for custom fees, 12k for bail, or 10k bribes, on and on until a he was wrung dry.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          His employment at the time was a personal finance consultant - hard to believe but true.

          No, that's quite easy to believe. I switched on the telly the other day to see a reality programme about somebody who had previously been on Big Brother (UK) called Jade, talking about setting up some business or other. Bear in mind that she is famous for being stupid. Thinking that Saddam Hussein was a boxer, Sherlock Holmes was famous for inventing the toilet and similar stuff. [wikipedia.org] She makes Jessica Simpson look li

        • Ever seen this? *g*

          http://www.419eater.com/ [419eater.com]
        • About two months ago, an auditor from the Canadian department of Revenue and Taxation got caught the same way, saying that he had never heard of the Nigerian scam. He even billed all his overseas calls to the government, and wasn't fired.
    • I really liked the "swimming through sugar syrup vs water" experiment. I'd have been a volunteer swimmer for that one. The penguin poo velocity one was neat too. I didn't know about the phenomenon before reading about it there, so the awards are educational. I wonder if it's in that March of the Penguins movie...

      I actually posted about it on TH earlier this morning:

      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/10/sciences_ b est_f.php [treehugger.com]
    • Presumably they'd have been delighted to attend, or even fund, the ceremony, if the organisers would just send them US$10000 to help
      get their visas.
  • by fragmentate (908035) * <.jdspilled. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:05PM (#13743816) Journal
    "Neuticles -- artificial replacement testicles for dogs, which are available in three sizes, and three degrees of firmness."

    Okay, the size thing I can understand... It's the degrees of firmness I'm having trouble with.


    "for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie 'Star Wars.'"

    If it was Episode I - III, that poor locust didn't have much left after this experiment.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Gregg Miller mortgaged his home and maxed out his credit cards to mass produce his invention -- prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs.

    What started 10 years ago with an experiment on an unwitting Rottweiler named Max has turned into a thriving mail-order business. And on Thursday night Miller's efforts earned him a dubious yet strangely coveted honor: the Ig Nobel Prize for medicine.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/a rchive/2005/10/06/national/a165024D53.DTL&type=pri ntable [sfgate.com]
  • I'm shocked (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frac (27516) * on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:06PM (#13743824)
    Steve Ballmer didn't get the Physics Prize for his paper on "Measuring Projectile Trajectory of Flying Chairs towards Resigning Employees"?

    • No, his is the study of the most pounds of sweat excreted over a five minute period, yelling only the word, "Developers"... Physists speculate the sheer amounts of metabolized substances required to produce such a feat cannot be obtained using only euclidian geometry.
  • Will Humans Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup?

    Isn't it pretty obvious that they will swim slower, since they have to displace more liquid to move?
    • nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:13PM (#13743863) Homepage
      It's not pretty obvious because the swimmer's hands do not need to move as fast to "grip" the liquid. The question is, does that factor outweigh the poorer hydrodynamics from the increased density. That's why subs surface when they can to cruise faster
      • SPOILERS (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:20PM (#13743899) Homepage
        They balance out. You swim at the same speed... at least according to the winner.

      • " That's why subs surface when they can to cruise faster"

        Not modern subs. (Since the late 60s (at least in the US) subs have been designed primarily for underwater manouvers. The propellers work better the deeper they are (less cavitation)

        During WWII and before, subs were powered by diesel engines on the suface and electric motors when submerged (which also charged the batteries) so for long range cruise they surfaced. Nuke powered boats don;t need to surface for air, and they have the same amount of power
      • Re:nope (Score:4, Informative)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday October 07, 2005 @08:39PM (#13744310)
        That's why subs surface when they can to cruise faster.

        No they don't. Old-style diesel subs would surface to cruise faster, but that was because they could cruise faster on diesel power than on electric, and they had to have fresh air for the diesel engines. (And they needed to save the battery power for when they really needed it.)

        Nuclear subs can actually cruise faster at depth: They have power, and the propellers can push harder against the denser water.

      • Most subs are quicker submerged, around twice as fast - the screw is less efficient at shallow depths due to cavitation. Subs surface to recharge batteries (if diesel-powered), snorkel, enter/leave port, perform damage control, etc, but not to go faster.
    • The one time i would actually like a spoiler.....

      Next research paper: Are people swimming in syrup more or less likely to lose their swimsuits ?

      Ya all don't mind if i go to another site for volunteers i hope ;)
    • Re:SImple viscosity? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:23PM (#13743918)
      It's a question of Reynolds Number. For humans (slow swimmers) in syrup (high viscosity) the Reynolds Number is going to be very low. It will be, essentially, the same problem that bacteria are up against in water. And if they swam like we do, they'd go nowhere.
            In low Reynolds Number situations, trying to swim by (for example), bringing one's hands forward slowly, then swishing them back quickly, would get you a distance of exactly zero from where you started, after one ( or N, where N is an integer) cycle. You'd be shoved backwards during the bringing up of the hands the same amount you're pushed forwards during the fast swish.
            Bacteria get around this by breaking the time-reversal symmetry of their swimming -- they use things that rotate, like flagella, or things that have different phases along a "squirmy" motion, like cilia. Our motions simply wouldn't work at that scale.
            It's always struck me as kind of silly that this particular paper was called worthy of an IgNobel. The authors apparently wanted to make it a fun paper, and get some interest by making people think. Hopefully, people can look past the IgNobel award and see that it's an interesting, valid question.
            Now, where're the hot grits and Natalie Portman? Hopefully she wouldn't get very far in those.
    • But what you're pushing against is denser, so can grip against it. You don't waste energy as much energy moving the water, so you'd get a bigger push forwards instead. The question is whether it'd make up for the greater drag (due to viscosity) or not.
    • Re:SImple viscosity? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by truckaxle (883149) *
      Since alcohol has a lower viscosity than water I wonder how fast a human swimmer could swim in vat of alcohol. Any takers? Now that I got thinking about this if you had an ideal fluid with no viscosity could you swim at all?

      Actually this research should team up with the Australian and see how fast a swimmer could swim in a tub of congealed black tar [uq.edu.au]
      • Re:SImple viscosity? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592)
        Now that I got thinking about this if you had an ideal fluid with no viscosity could you swim at all?
        Think about this: can astronauts swim through the air in their spacecraft?
    • A more interesting (indirect) study on viscosity was the study on penguin poo [arrr.net], one of the Ig Nobel winners.

      From the article: Our best estimate for the semi-liquid faeces of the penguin is a viscosity that lies between that of glycol (lower value, g=0.02 Pa s) and considerably below that of glycerine (upper value, g=1.5 Pa s: Landolt and Börnstein 1955). That of olive oil (g=0.08) seems a fair approximation.

      Go and swim in that!

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:09PM (#13743846)
    > FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu , Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defaecation."

    Now, with penguins, (cuddly such), "contented" means it has either just gotten laid, or it's stuffed on herring. Take it from me, I'm an expert on penguins, those are really the only two options.

    - Linus Torvalds on the design of Tux [sjbaker.org]

    No, Linus, apparently there was a third option.

    And now I'll never say "Ooh, what a cuddly penguin, I bet he is just stuffed with herring" the same way again.

    • No, Linus, apparently there was a third option. And now I'll never say "Ooh, what a cuddly penguin, I bet he is just stuffed with herring" the same way again. Hehehehhe.... I was there. The person gave a speech that was being played on Windows Media Player. There was no sound.
  • by jangobongo (812593) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:19PM (#13743891)
    Full list [improb.com] for this year, plus past winners.

    One of my favorites:

    "ECONOMICS: Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides, repeatedly, thus ensuring that people DO get out of bed, and thus theoretically adding many productive hours to the workday."
    previously covered at here [slashdot.org] at slashdot.

    Some other funny ones:

    "PHYSICS: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland, Australia, for patiently conducting an experiment that began in the year 1927 -- in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly, slowly dripping through a funnel, at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years."


    and

    "FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu , Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defaecation."
    • "FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu , Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defaecation."

      This can't be good PR for open source.
           
  • Here's the archived video, but it seems to be slashdotted...probably not a good thing if you're in the video broadcasting business...

    http://play.rbn.com/?url=ignobel/ignobel/demand/ig 2005.mov&proto=rtsp [rbn.com]
    • This is what I hate about streaming video! Streaming video is great for LIVE performances. But if the performance is OVER then provide a fscking link to a real fscking movie file that I can download and watch! I'd love to see this, but it stutters and stops and is really pissing me off. If they provided a link to a downloadable movie I could just wait for the download to finish and play it AT MY LEISURE without having to be inconvenienced by their (or my) pathetic excuse for a connection. Seriously, if
  • The grant money just came in and it's syurp night at Ricky's. We are so going! Remember, take lots of measurements.
  • Regret of Mr. Nobel. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 88NoSoup4U88 (721233) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:38PM (#13743980)
    I find the (hi)story of the Nobel Prize [wikipedia.org] quite interesting :

    Imagine, this guy was shocked to see people using his invention, dynamite, for violent purposes (naive as he was ;) ) : So after he dies, the capital he leaves behind is invested in giving out yearly prizes to people who shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.

    I always wondered what motivations (his conscience , religion, a nagging wife telling him every night he was a dumb man for inventing dynamite) were behind this price.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2005 @08:10PM (#13744152)
      Alfred Nobel had a brother who was also in his line of work, but not associated with his research into dynamite. Upon the death of his brother, newspapers wrote scathing epitaphs, calling Alfred (whom they thought had died) a monster to society, whose inventions had resulted in the deaths of many more men than previously possible (partially due to the fact that he had sold dynamite to both sides in the Franco-Prussian War). He was so shocked and affected by these reports that he set forth in his will to reward those who had done good to society.
  • by technoextreme (885694) on Friday October 07, 2005 @07:40PM (#13743991)
    Unfortnately, the video stream has been slashdotted but I can go into details about some of the parts of the Ignobel Awards. The night started with a pianist playing a song called Infinite Chopsticks. This was a song that must have involved 100 differnt versions of chopsticks in fifteen minutes (As the host said infinity doesn't last very long). Next was the general introduction of the guests. These people ranged from Miss Sweetie Poo (A girl who's sole purpose is to get people from babling on about their subjects) to people who have actually won Nobel Prizes. Then there was a general discussion and opera based on the concept of infinity (the ceremonies theme). The opera was about an ocd ruler of the land ofinfinity who needs to count everything in order to get married. There are also two moments of science where there are two demonstrations of science. The 24/7 lectures are a 24 second technical descussion of something and then a seven word summary that everyone can understand. Also, you can win a date with a Nobel Prize winner. It's a really nice way to attract people to the world of science by showing that we are not upstuck individuals. I can answer more questions if you guys have more questions about the ceremony. I believe the that it will be rebroadcast on NPR. The greatest quote of the evening has to be,"Well I can recite the number e to you but I've decided to tell you everything I know."- A Nobel Prize winner in relation to the concept of infinity. Ps. After reading this. I now know I have no life.
    • Also, you can win a date with a Nobel Prize winner.

      Wait, wait. Are you telling me that if I win a Nobel, I might get a date, too? Wow! I need to get back to designing that perpetual motion machine--feels like I've been working on that stupid thing forever.
      • The 'winner' was an unbelievably enthusiastic co-ed - the 'contest' was just another bit of absurdity. So even Nobel laureates can't get a date. Although, maybe he did try to get her back to the lab to 'look at his slides'.

        You, on the other hand, might be able to get a date about the time you get that machine finished.

  • Studying various stress induced odors of flying testicles produced from the exploding trousers of nigerians swimming in congealed black penguin poo...

    uhhhh.... and an alarm clock ran away.
  • ACCEPTING: The winners were unable to attend the ceremony because they could not obtain United States visas to visit the United States. Dr. Meyer-Rochow sent an acceptance speech via videotape.

    I guess Germany is now one of the "countries of concern"? Well, can't say I'm surprised.

  • by Jazzer_Techie (800432) on Friday October 07, 2005 @08:14PM (#13744170)
    I had the privilage of attending the awards last night for the first time. It was a ton of fun. My friends and I threw about a half ream of paper airplanes from the balcony and of course got some good laughs from the prizes that others have mentioned. But by far the most disturbing event of the night was the 2003 Biology Prize winner again showing his (first ever) documentation of of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. http://www.nmr.nl/deins815.htm [www.nmr.nl]

    If any one is in the Cambridge/Boston area this Saturday there is a free lecture at MIT during which the laureates will describe more about their research.

    Note: This may well be the only time that "homosexual necrophilia" has been used in a non-troll /. post.
  • HEY! Someone mistyped that. It's the 15th 1st Annual Ig Nobel Price Awards. There may be a 2nd Annual later on in the year, but this is the 15th 1st annual!

  • Surely "TIME CUBE" [timecube.com] deserves Ig-recognition....

    "Recognition and application of this Cubic
    simultaneous 4 day rotation of Earth,
    will change all math, science and societies
    from the begining of human existence.
    You have to be evil to ignore this math."

  • It looks like the inventor of the floppy disk [wikipedia.org] won the pirze in nutrtion for "photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting)."
  • ...but was afraid to ask...

    From the study Pressures produced when penguins poohcalculations on avian defaecation [arrr.net] :

    Although the orificium venti generally opens through a horizontal slit in the Spheniscidae, the orifice becomes circular during evacuation (King 1981; Watson 1883).

    Here's proof? [nhm.ac.uk]

  • The story behind Mr Buckley's exploding trousers is actually kind of a good one. Back in the 30s farmers in New Zealand needed a way to control ragwort, a weed that is toxic to livestock. Sodium chlorate seemed like a miraculous solution at first, but what they didn't know was that it is a strong oxidising agent and can become explosive when mixed with organic material. So spraying it hither and yon while wearing cotton trousers is not the best idea. There followed a nationwide epidemic of exploding trouser

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