Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ig Nobel Prizes

I'm watching this ceremony live. I feel really connected to this crowd.

They chanted for Ira Flatow. I'm starting to cry. It's a whole roomful of people who know about Science Friday and Math Monday. I wonder how many of them think of football on Saturday.

The inventor of the pink plastic flamingo knows how to write a twitter length speech. He says they're the only animal safe from bacteria. Give them to all your friends. It's good for business.

2003 Winner for finding homosexual necrophilia in mallard ducks plugged his new book.

The emergency bra inventor has the best accent. All bra inventors should be Russian.

Dr. Nakamatsu, bane of Twitter and Facebook users who are tired of seeing pictures of other people's food, has taken a photo of every meal he's eaten for 35 years.

OK! Time for the 10 new prizes! 7:17. This is a long ceremony. It started at 6:00 Central Time. The Ig Nobel Prize is an object I can't describe. The master of ceremonies was waving it around too much and YouTube can't keep up. They get a ten trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe.

Engineering Prize! A method to collect whale snot using a remote control helicopter. OK, that's really useful. You could use that to put microphones on their head too. They said that whales smell bad. I did not know that. They said that's why they wanted to collect phlegm from the blow hole -- they thought it would give information about infection. Good idea!

Medical Prize! Symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller coaster ride. The authors of the paper, a blind man and a man who was previously afraid of roller coasters, found the emotional reaction to waiting to get on the roller coaster induced breathlessness, but the euphoria, aka positive emotion, at the end of the ride cured the asthma attack. Brilliant!

This ceremony could use fewer entertaining interludes. The transitions are not smooth. The flow of the experience is thrown off. They're going along great then they trip over these musical numbers. The performers are all great, don't get me wrong. I'm giving them a pass on overacting.

Somebody hit the target with a paper airplane! Everybody cheered.

They're going to show live microscope images on the screen. Calibration jokes. I love it. The 1 micron beads and brownian motion on the screen.

Ecoli doesn't look like much. Slides never cooperate. Matches everybody's experience in middle school.

Missed the category: Japanese team wins a second prize for slime mold. This time they used it to design high speed rail tracks. In 2008 it solved puzzles.

Physics Prize! For demonstrating that on icy footpaths people fall down less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. They called it an "off-label use of socks," which got a laugh. Apparently the treacherous icy conditions in their town in New Zealand only occur a few days a year. So it wouldn't really wear out that many socks. It's probably a lot more economical than buying special shoes. They put them over rubber boots in the demonstration, which are probably are treacherous on ice indeed, sans socks.

Peace Prize! Two scientists confirmed the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain. This reminds me of the time my niece spent the night with me in Beachton where I have an outdoor shower. I told her about being bitten by honey bees three times in the shower. I explained it in detail. Later when I took her back to her dad she told him, "Aunt B has honey bees in her outdoor shower and she named them! They're called, Fucker! Bastard! and Son-of-a-BITCH!"

Public Health Prize! Microbes cling to bearded scientists. There is plenty of information about how beards affect the fit of face masks, but there was no literature on how beards affected contamination transfer in a microbiology lab. There is now. Microbiologists -- shave your beard if you don't want to take your work home with you.

Another moment of science. People in lab coats and black light set up a fan on a stand.... Oh, they're making a vortex. Aaaand YouTube gets stuck. It's ok. I've seen it.

Oh no, the feed is back in time for more faux opera. Not crazy about the faux opera. But they got a cheer when they put on shirts reminiscent of Star Trek. They have big titles onscreen in the hall so people know what they're saying. Can't read it on YouTube that well. I don't think it would help anyway.

Economics Prize: Goldman Sachs, AIG, etc. win. You can guess why. Not that amusing because it's just sad.

Chemistry Prize: BP et al for disproving the idea that oil and water don't mix. Oil and water mix because the ocean is in motion. Might turn out good that the oil is all over the ocean floor instead of in the coastal zone because now they can be degraded by bacteria.

How many bacteria can dance on the head of a pin? Professor Wilcheck gave a large number and then specified that there is A PIN that would match that number of bacteria or fewer. Dr. Nakamatsu. There are many kinds of pins in the world. So he invented his own head of pins then calculated how many billions of bacteria can dance on it.

Win a date with a Nobel Laureate! Bill Lipscomb is the prize. He's about 90 years old and in a wheelchair. A guy in the balcony won the prize and seemed very excited.

Management Prize! Companies would be more successful if they promoted people at random. Incompetence is the theme. I'm going to have to read about this one.

Missed the category: For scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats. "Thank you for this prize! I am BLOWN AWAY!"

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