Roy Exum: The 2013 Ig Nobel Winners

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Sanders Theater on the Harvard campus had been sold out for weeks and an overflow stood outside on Thursday night for the 23rd Annual Ig Nobel Awards. The event, according to the humorous scientific magazine, honors scientific achievements "that first make people laugh, and then make them think. Seriously, these are very real milestones based upon careful scientific research and data.

They also confirm that many of the most scholarly people in the world are flat-out crazy. In 2009, for instance, a brassiere that could be used as a gas mask was unveiled and in 2010 a “blind study” confirmed that cussing, when really profane, functions as a pain-killer. Now that you’ve gotten the piucture, the envelopes please …

PSYCHOLOGY – Since it has already been proven that drunk people believe others to be more attractive, this year’s award winning team determined that drunk people, and those who think they are drunk, believe they are more attractive, too.  Unfortunately, a team of “judges” that studied videos of the drunk people used to prove the finding did not think the drunk people were attractive at all. Kudos to Laurent Bègue, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra and Medhi Ourabah of France and Brad Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University who also teaches in the Netherlands.

BIOLOGY & CHEMISTRY – Dung beetles, which the American Institute of Biological Sciences report save the nation’s cattle industry an estimated $380 million every year by burying above-ground livestock manure, uses the solar system to go in a straight line and find their way home. The winners proved it by using a planetarium with the ability to alter the celestial constellations, most especially the Milky Way. Sure enough, the beetles responded to the compass every time. On the winning team Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz and Eric Warrant, who work in Sweden, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Germany.

MEDICINE – Opera music has a profound effect in boosting the immune system of heart transplant patients –  if it is a mouse. Deaf mice died about a week following transplantation but those who could hear Verdi’s La Traviata averaged 26 days before they croaked, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery by Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi, of Japan, China and the United Kingdom.

SAFETY ENGINEERING – A system that would drop a would-be airplane hijacker through a trap door, then contain the villain in a strong capsule and, after a parachute is deployed, would then drop the capsule and its contents through a trap door to waiting police on the ground. (The pilots would radio the … er, the bombing coordinates to police before releasing the capsule through the bomb doors.) Awarded posthumously to Gustano Pizzo of the U.S., who died in 2006.

PHYSICS – On the planet earth some lizards and birds can defy gravity and run on the surface of the water but –  if the pond and a human being were both on the moon -- where the force of gravity is one-sixth what it is on earth, it is believed a human could accomplish the feat due to the resistance of the water’s mass. Congratulations to Alberto Minetti, Yuri Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, and Francesco Lacquaniti of Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia and France.

CHEMISTRY – Scientists have identified an unknown enzyme in an onion that makes people cry and – by using genetic technologies – have morphed a “tearless onion.” Without safety authorizations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the project cannot go further but a more flavorful and healthful onion may be in the future, thanks to Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, Toshiyuki Nagata and Hidehiko Kumgai of Japan and Germany.

ARCHAEOLOGY – Two researchers parboiled shrew – small, mole-like mammals – and then swallowed them without chewing so they could examine their excrement to see which bones would dissolve in the human digestive system and which would not. They compared their findings with micro-mammalian bones found at archaeological sites around the world to prove scientists may have to think differently about bones they find. Winners were Brian Crandall of the U.S. and Peter Stahl of Canada and the U.S.

PEACE – Awarded to the country of Belarus, and its president, Alexander Lukashenko, for making it illegal to applaud in public, which effectively ended clapping by political protestors and gave special recognition to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

PROBABILITY -- Researchers discovered that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up, but that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again. Kudos to Bert Tolkamp, Marie Haskell, Fritha Langford, David Roberts and Colin Morgan of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada.

PUBLIC HEALTH – A group of Thai doctors, in a paper published by the American Journal of Surgery, introduced new medical techniques in an article entitled, "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam." It seems after 1970 wives would punish philandering husbands with the “worst cut of all” and throw the dismembered organs under the elevated houses where ducks took over. The penile reimplantations worked best, according to scientific study, if salvaged before the ducks found them. Awarded to Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde of Thailand.

royexum@aol.com



Lawsuit May Bring More Security To Hamilton Place Mall

Good for the military veteran that is suing for getting shot on CBL's and ERMC's watch. With this past holiday season's traumatic events unfolding at the mall and clear evidence that ERMC security does not have the ability to insure the safety of the patrons, it is time for a lawsuit to get someone's attention.  This military veteran, who clearly saw combat due to the mentioned ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: McQueen & Her TVAAS

If I am reading my Ouija Board right, I suspect the Hamilton County School Board will vote to allow a controversial “partnership” to be formed with the state Board of Education tonight at its monthly meeting. State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has said she will demand the one-sided partnership to take over the operation of five at-risk schools in Hamilton County and, if ... (click for more)

School Board Approves "Partnership" With State As "Lesser Of 2 Evils"

The County School Board on Thursday night voted 7-2 to join in talks with the State Department of Education leading to a Partnership Zone for five low-performing schools. Joe Smith and David Testerman voted against the plan. Other board members said the only alternative was for the state to take over several low-performing schools under the Achievement School District in which ... (click for more)

Jury Hears About Incident Behind Food Lion That Authorities Say Led To Triple Murders In Lookout Valley; Neighbor Saw Trio With Guns

A Criminal Court jury on Thursday was told about an incident behind the Food Lion on Brown's Ferry Road that authorities say was the motive for an April 9, 2014, massacre at a Lookout Valley trailer park. Brandon Jackson said the incident five days earlier involved Derek Morse, who is standing trial on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Baylor Rolls Past Cleveland For 30th win

The Baylor Lady Red Raiders have produced more than their share of outstanding volleyball teams in head coach Sarah Lail’s tenure, but this year’s team may be the best ever. There are no real superstars like in years past, but they have a talented group of young ladies who can beat you from any number of spots on the court. Facing one of its biggest tests of the season on ... (click for more)

Vols. UMass Matchup Pits 1998 National Champions

Tennessee takes on UMass on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The game will feature a noon ET kickoff on SEC Network.     Tennessee (2-1) is coming off a 26-20 road loss to Florida on Sept. 16. Junior running back John Kelly set career highs with 141 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards and played a major role in the Vols' second half rally before the Gators ... (click for more)