Once every year since 1901, the best scientists, literary geniuses and those who strive for peace in the world await notice of having been nominated for a Nobel Prize. But not all advancements or actions can be regarded worthy of such a prize and yet they can be just as significant in terms of the impact they have on mankind. Since that time, many other awards have been created to fill in the holes. In 1991 perhaps the most significant of them came into being. The Ig Noble Prize. The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology, and thus seemed like a great subject matter for this blog.
To add some credibility to these awards, they are given by actual Nobel Prize winners and the award ceremony for 2012 happened yesterday. Unlike the Grammies, Oscars or other such events where actors and actresses take hours giving their thanks, winners are given only 60 seconds to explain themselves during the prize ceremony or they will be booed off the stage, or have paper airplanes thrown at them.
And so to some of this year’s winners. In neurosciences, Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford demonstrated that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
For literature, The US Government General Accountability Office won the prize for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports. This was done as an action needed to evaluate the impact of efforts to estimate costs of reports and studies. Your tax dollars at work!
In physics, Joseph Keller, and Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball, for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail. This research produced what has become known as the "Ponytail Shape Equation". It takes into account the stiffness of the hair fibers on the head, the effects of gravity and the presence of the random curliness or waviness that is ubiquitous in human hair to model how a ponytail is likely to behave. Together with a new quantity the team calls the Rapunzel Number, the equation can be used to predict the shape that hair will take when it is drawn behind the head and tied together.
Also, could you recognize the rear end of your significant other from a photo? How about others? If not then Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny have shown that you are perhaps not as advanced as chimpanzees because they can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
So, do you think you have something worthy of an Ig Nobel? Share it with us...
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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