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2009 Ig Nobels Awarded, For Gas-Mask Bras and More 123

Posted by kdawson
from the classical-gas dept.
alphadogg notes that the 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded yesterday evening in Cambridge, MA. (You may find that site has been pre-Slashdotted; and improbable.com's video feeds of the ceremony don't work at the moment either.) News.com.au has coverage of the bra that converts quickly to two gas masks, a study of why pregnant women don't tip over, the award for literature, and other gems. "Ireland's police won the literature prize from writing more than 50 traffic tickets to a frequent visitor and speeder named Prawo Jazdy. In Polish, this means 'driver's license.' Pathologist Stephan Bolliger and colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland won for a study they did to determine whether an empty beer bottle does more or less damage to the human skull than a full one in a bar fight."
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2009 Ig Nobels Awarded, For Gas-Mask Bras and More

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  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:41AM (#29616009)
    "I'm sorry miss, I thought the phone was an alarm warning of a gas attack. Let me help you get back in again". .....
  • by headhot (137860)

    I would have to think through my minimal physics training that a full beer bottle would be more effective in a bar fight then an empty one. Assuming there is a cap on the bottle. If the cap is off, all bets are off.

    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:45AM (#29616075)

      A full beer bottle is prone to break at the neck due to the air bubble retracting into the cap area during swinging (assuming you are holding it by the neck, which you should if you have any sense at all). If it breaks at the neck when you hit, you end up with shards of glass on yourself rather than on your opponent.

      I'm interested in why pregnant women don't tip over. I'm trying hard to avoid bringing bovines into the comparison.

      • I know everytime I get into a bar fight I make sure to finish drinking the beer first.

        Come to think of it, I've usually finished a few bottles by that time.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Funny)

        by dals_rule (1076803) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:06AM (#29616319)
        Hark! Do I smell an episode of 'Myth Busters'????
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        For the same reason why my 8th grade social studies teacher didn't tip-over, even though he had a beer belly the size of a Michelin Radial X.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by beerbear (1289124)
        According to Bas Rutten [wikipedia.org], who was a bouncer before he got into MMA, the same thing happens to an empty bottle.
      • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Funny)

        by bitt3n (941736) on Friday October 02, 2009 @12:58PM (#29618537)

        A full beer bottle is prone to break at the neck due to the air bubble retracting into the cap area during swinging (assuming you are holding it by the neck, which you should if you have any sense at all). If it breaks at the neck when you hit, you end up with shards of glass on yourself rather than on your opponent.

        I'm interested in why pregnant women don't tip over. I'm trying hard to avoid bringing bovines into the comparison.

        I'd be interested in seeing the combined study, determining whether it is easier to knock over a pregnant woman with an empty or full beer bottle. (This may depend on whether it is the pregnant woman who did the emptying.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SleazyRidr (1563649)

      This shows one of the very good reasons why the IgNobels are a valuable thing. I would have thought the same as you; more mass->more inertia->more hurt. Then these guys come along and show us that the world isn't quite as intuitive as all that. On the surface it looks useless, but there may just be some application for this in structural engineering that will make bridges cheaper to build in the future. All science leads us forward, even if we have to take very small steps.

  • I hope never to win one of these awards, but we could be surprised one day. Some of this research may end up useful in a way we never foresaw.
    • by nomadic (141991)
      The biology prize, as funny as it sounds, seems extremely useful and perfectly legitimate research.
    • Are you kidding? I'd love to win one of these awards.

      Some of the research is actually pretty solid scientific stuff. It's also highly applicable to my every-day life.

      My personal favorite winners:

      Physics - Presented to David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts, for his partial explanation of the shower-curtain effect: a shower curtain tends to billow inwards while a shower is being taken.

      Public Health - Presented to Jillian Clarke of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and then Howard

      • by WeblionX (675030)

        Physics - Presented to David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts, for his partial explanation of the shower-curtain effect: a shower curtain tends to billow inwards while a shower is being taken.

        Oh, now I have to read the article to see if there's a way to counter act this!

      • Physics - Presented to David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts, for his partial explanation of the shower-curtain effect: a shower curtain tends to billow inwards while a shower is being taken.

        Sounds like the Bernoulli effect [wikipedia.org] to me.

      • by pwfffff (1517213)

        "Physics - Presented to David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts, for his partial explanation of the shower-curtain effect: a shower curtain tends to billow inwards while a shower is being taken."

        That required research, really? Not going to RTFA, so someone tell me if his 'research' found different/better conclusions than I came up with while showering:
        Hot air created by contact with steam and hot water rises to the top of your shower and vents through the top of the curtain, while the cooler air in

        • by arose (644256)
          Apparently things are more complex then one might think (as usual): the effect is similar even with cold showers and that the water spray crates a vortex in the shower.
  • Hey, not fair! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:45AM (#29616065)
    The lowly beer bottle has had a much greater impact on the world's institutions of higher learning than all other academic topics combined.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      >>>The lowly beer bottle [or wine bottle] has had a much greater impact on the world's institutions [...]

      Fixed. In college alcohol helps people meet one another, which leads to procreation and children, who then grow-up to drink more alcohol. The great classics of literature were written while copious amounts of alcohol were consumed, and in ancient history society revolved around the great central beer halls. Even the gears of government are greased by alcohol as politicians discuss nuclear ar

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The lowly beer bottle has had a much greater impact on the world's institutions of higher learning than all other academic topics combined.

      That's only because you can't hurl "academic topics" through the Dean's office window...

    • by Abreu (173023)

      Except the diamonds were made out of tequila, not beer

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      True. Not to mention the unlearning of all the silly theories you proposed when trying to chat up that bird from the geology department: As Darwin said, "To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact"; and nothing kills an error as brutally and swiftly as thinking back to what you said when drunk last night.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Which converts quickly to two gas chambers. Dutch style.

  • breathing (Score:3, Funny)

    by kiehlster (844523) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:54AM (#29616159) Homepage
    One might have to wonder if heavy breathing might change the effectiveness of such a gas mask.
  • Prize for Medicine (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alicat1194 (970019) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:57AM (#29616191)
    MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand -- but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand -- every day for more than sixty (60) years.

    Apart from *ouch*, this actually sets a great example - a simple yet elegant experiment that anyone (who happened to have a spare 60 years) could do, yet it still contributes something to science.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, I have to say that this is a great experiment; not "ig" at all.

      (Might have been better if he'd done the control knuckle-cracking by finger, and not by hand.)

    • by feldhaus (813019)
      A great example? With a sample size of one?
      There are surely very many factors which could influence the development of arthritis.
      • by GargamelSpaceman (992546) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:26AM (#29616535) Homepage Journal
        Yes, because more people can copy him and up the sample size. If enough people do this ( also switching hands, say cracking their right hand and not their left, and also noting left or right handedness ) then you know the results are valid barring any association between liklihood of doing this and assymetric arthritis. Possibly there is a gene that causes both OCD and arthritis.
        • by Wodin (33658)

          Yes, because more people can copy him and up the sample size. If enough people do this ( also switching hands, say cracking their right hand and not their left, and also noting left or right handedness ) then you know the results are valid barring any association between liklihood of doing this and assymetric arthritis. Possibly there is a gene that causes both OCD and arthritis.

          No, no, that's not double-blind! You have to have someone cracking (or not) your knuckles without you knowing it and also without them knowing whose knuckles are being cracked.

      • by yamfry (1533879) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:47AM (#29616759)

        It's true. I have one potential cause of unilateral arthritis open in the next tab.

    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:48AM (#29616771) Homepage Journal
      Hey, I've been repeating an action with my right hand and not my left for years, where is my prize?
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Funny story (at least I think it is). I'm right-handed and had always used my right hand for that. Then came the internet. For a while I struggled with using the mouse with my left hand which was awkward and required me to adjust how I was sitting as well. It just didn't work out. Eventually I got sick of doing that and started using my left hand.

        It was tough at first. Slipped off and punched myself in the nuts a few times. Scratched myself with a fingernail. But I stuck with it and you know what?

      • and all I did was go blind!
    • The article for this one is actually pretty good, and short it's just a letter.

      http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/86510619/PDFSTART [wiley.com]

      The response to the article though, that's great.

  • Create panties that turn into gas masks and I'm in.
  • I was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#29616359)

    bra that converts quickly to two gas masks,

    They neglected to mention the more impressive part: they did a live demonstration for six people, all using bras she was wearing, and she removed them without taking off any other clothing.

    She was also decently endowed, and I'm not referring to the size of her...grants.

    • With 3 bras on, all with significant amounts of gas-blocking filter material? I'd look "endowed" too.

      But did anyone else watching the sword swallower shout out to their computer display "Don't hiccup!"?

    • obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymusing (1450747)

      "She's beautiful, she's rich, she's got huge... tracts of land."

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      They neglected to mention the more impressive part: they did a live demonstration for six people, all using bras she was wearing, and she removed them without taking off any other clothing.

      Impressive? I call that a damn shame. Someone get the designers on the line, I need to give them a piece of my mind!

  • Allo Allo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:25AM (#29616529)
    The bra that quickly converts into two gas masks would really fit in the comical series "Allo Allo", if you know it.
  • I had not heard about the Zimbabwean Dollar before. The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] has a great picture of the $100 billion note and the three eggs it bought when it was released. Their financial software can't even handle the $trillion numbers involved in people's bank accounts. The countries money supply was 900 quadrillion dollars in 2008! Words can't even express how insane this is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jijitus (1478465)
      Haha, in Argentina we have knocked on average two digits every decade until the nineties, when we had one last 4-digit drop to force our currency to equal the US dollar. Of course it didn't last, now it's valued USD 0.26 But the Zimbabwean dollar wins all records. I had never seen exponential notation and the percentage sign together before.
  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:56AM (#29616845) Journal

    TFA has no pictures. You can all go home now.

  • Gas masks? (Score:4, Funny)

    by snspdaarf (1314399) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:04AM (#29616967)
    I always heard bras converted to yarmulkes with chin straps....
  • by paiute (550198)

    It was a hoot as usual.

    The past couple of years I have had to get orchestra seats, down on the floor in front of the stage. These used to be the least desirable seats, as occupants had no cover from the constant barrage of paper airplanes. Now they try to limit the planes to two designated times, but there is a lot of random traffic anyway.

    When the very MILFy Russian blonde doc pulled not one but two emergency bras from under her tight black velvet dress and put them on the faces of four actual Nobel laurea

  • I thought that was very good. From his blog [nytimes.com]

    24:

    Given decentralized constrained optimization by maximizing agents with well-defined convex objective functions and/or convex production functions, engaging in exchange and production with free disposal, leads, in the absence of externalities, market power, and other distortions, there exists an equilibrium characterized by Pareto optimality.

    7:

    Greedy people, competing, make the world go round.

  • or GTFO
  • by BigBlueOx (1201587) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#29617473)
    ...when I had the opportunity to travel back in time. I gleefully grabbed the once in a lifetime chance and travelled back to 1970. Once in 1970 I participated in a question and answer session with the great minds of the time.

    "Have you abolished war?", "Have you cured cancer?", "Do you have flying cars?", I was asked.

    "No, no and no.", I replied, "but we have pigs that glow under UV light, remote-control cyborg African beetles, bras that double as gas masks and iPhones. Oh, and we know why pregnant women don't fall over!"

    I thought they took the news rather well. Considering.
  • BobB (Score:3, Informative)

    by alphadogg (971356) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:44AM (#29617553)
    How the Ig Nobels compare with the Nobels: http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2009/092809-ignobel.html [networkworld.com]
  • by jhfry (829244) on Friday October 02, 2009 @01:02PM (#29618567)

    From the actual issue of Arthritis and Ruhmitism where Ig Nobel Prise winner Dr. Donald L. Unger, published the results of his investigation into a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers. - http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/86510619/PDFSTART [wiley.com]

    Read the reply... I love it when serious people let loose!

    Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis of the fingers?

    To the Editor:
    During the author's childhood, various renowned authorities (his mother, several aunts, and, later, his mother-in law [personal communication]) informed him that cracking his knuckles would lead to arthritis of the fingers. To test the accuracy of this hypothesis, the following study was undertaken. For 50 years, the author cracked the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day, leaving those on the right as a control. Thus, the knuckles on the left were cracked at least 36,500 times, while those on the right cracked rarely and spontaneously. At the end of the 50 years, the hands were compared for the presence of arthritis. There was no arthritis in either hand, and no apparent differences between the two hands. Knuckle cracking did not lead to arthritis after a 50-year controlled study by the one participant. While a larger group would be necessary to confirm this result, this preliminary investigation suggests a lack of correlation between knuckle cracking and the development of arthritis of the fingers. A search of the literature revealed only one previous paper on this subject, and the authors came to the same conclusion (Swezey RL. Swezey SE. The consequences of habitual knuckle cracking. West J Med 1973;122:377-9.).

    This result calls into question whether other parental beliefs, e.g., the importance of eating spinach, are also flawed. Further investigation is likely warranted. In conclusion, there is no apparent relationship between knuckle cracking and the subsequent development of arthritis of the fingers. This study was done entirely at the author's expense, with no grants from any governmental or pharmaceutical source.

    Donald L. Unger, MD
    Thousand Oaks, CA

    Reply

    To the Editor:

    I appreciate the opportunity to review Dr. Unger's report. His "self-controlled" study adds considerable credence
    to our 1973 study findings. Dr. Unger exercised amazing self control by performing 50 years of knuckle cracking (KC) on his left hand at least twice daily, "while those on the right cracked only rarely and spontaneously.'' No evidence of arthritis in either hand was found at the end of 50 years. I have taken the liberty of consulting Dr. John Adams, PhD, at the Rand Corporation. who has generously provided me with the following statistical analysis.

    The basic study designed by Dr. Unger is a two-arm trial without randomization. Although it is not clear, it appears
    that the study was not blinded. Blinding would only be possible if the investigator didn't know left from right. This is not likely since studies indicate that only 31% of primary care physicians don't know left from right. (The figure is reportedly somcwhat higher for most specialists.) The lack of randomization suggests the need for a multivariate analysis to reduce bias. Controlling for knuckle-to-knuckle variation in race, sex, socioeconomic status, initial severity, comorbidities, and Ecuadorian
    barometric pressure at the time of measurement would be advisable. The sample size appears too small to support accurate inference. Typically, sample sizes of roughly twice the available research budget are required for valid inference. Restrictive
    eligibility criteria and convenience sampling limit generalization of the results to knuckle-cracking physicians
    with a lot of time on their hands.

    I should note that SES, the co-author of our 1973 investigation, was 12 years old at the time of the study and that
    the study was stimulated because of his grandmother's co

    • by jhfry (829244) on Friday October 02, 2009 @01:09PM (#29618635)

      Best lines:

      Blinding would only be possible if the investigator didn't know left from right. This is not likely since studies indicate that only 31% of primary care physicians don't know left from right. (The figure is reportedly somewhat higher for most specialists.)

      Typically, sample sizes of roughly twice the available research budget are required for valid inference.

      Restrictive eligibility criteria and convenience sampling limit generalization of the results to knuckle-cracking physicians with a lot of time on their hands.

      A clear distinction between hand wringing related to managed care procedures and therapeutic Knuckle Cracking will have to be made.

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Friday October 02, 2009 @03:00PM (#29620031)

    Pathologist Stephan Bolliger and colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland won for a study they did to determine whether an empty beer bottle does more or less damage to the human skull than a full one in a bar fight

    Hey now, this one is actually useful information! You now know which bottle to pick, based on how much (or little) damage you actually want to do.

    Admittedly, I don't think I'd willingly go out drinking with Dr. Bolliger...

    • by bar-agent (698856)

      Hey now, this one is actually useful information! You now know which bottle to pick, based on how much (or little) damage you actually want to do.

      I agree! I just wish they said what his results are.

      Are full bottles better, or empty bottles? The suspense is killing me!

      • by TheABomb (180342)

        Obviously, a full bottle, with its added weight, is better for blunt-force trauma, while an empty bottle is easier to shatter against the bar for shivving purposes.

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