Roy Exum: How To ‘Unboil’ An Egg

Sunday, September 27, 2015 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Every year I eagerly await the Ig Nobel awards where actual scientific research comes up with seemingly wacky results. Earlier this month, in a big production in the famous Sanders Theater at Harvard University, the Annals of Improbable Research presented its 2015 winners and, while they make you laugh, the whole idea is that they also cause you to think. I am hardly alone. Nature Magazine claims the Ig Nobels “are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar." 

For instance, this year’s Ig Nobel for Diagnostic Medicine was awarded to a research team from Britain that discovered in a comprehensive study that if a person cries out in agony when you go over a speed bump in the road, it may be an indicator whoever yelped may have acute appendicitis.

The Ig Nobel for language went to a trio of researchers who found there is a “repair initiator” in virtually every language in the world that is used when one person does not clearly understand what another has said. Yes, “huh” is universal.

But the one that made me laugh was this bunch of yahoos who hard-boiled an egg and then “unboiled” it by using a vortex fluid device. Here’s how it works: When the egg is boiled, the proteins “are folded and refolded in a messy, disordered form.” But by using mechanical energy, the scientists were able to make those same proteins return to their original, untangled shape.

Can you imagine anything as silly and stupid? Not until you think about this – what if we could someday do the same thing to a cancer tumor? The pharmaceutical industry knows that proteins in some drugs sometimes misfold and are useless, but by using the “boiled egg” technique, laboratories would be able to return those same proteins to their original state. Now it is not quite as funny, huh? And for the record, the unboiling of an egg in scientific jargon is, “Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies.”

The Ig Nobel for management discovered that CEOs who “experience a natural disaster without extremely negative consequences are far more apt to take bigger risks in business” but … extreme levels of fatal disasters cause our same leaders to be more cautious. In other words, if nobody dies it is easier to be brave.

The Ig Nobel for mathematics went to a team that studied the bloodthirsty Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco who, when he ruled from 1672 to 1727, was reputed to have bedded a different woman every day for 32 years. The algorithm the researchers came up with, based on three models of conception and different social and biological restraints, proved the Sultan could have fathered more than 1,000 children. But can you imagine the reading of the will?

The police department in Bangkok, Thailand was awarded this year’s Economics award after their higher-ups decided to pay the cops on the force extra cash if they refused to accept bribes from speeders and the like. And, get this, the award for medicine went to a team that discovered if people who kiss in a way that exchanges saliva it can most definitely reduce the severity of skin allergies. The only catch is you that you have to “suck face” sometime BEFORE you mess around with poison ivy.

The best one came from Michael Smith, who is employed with the department of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell. Working on a project that deals with pain, he had bumble bees sting him on over 25 locations of his body to find out what hurt the most and what hurt the least. We almost need a drum roll to report his findings. The least? The skull, the middle toe tip and the upper arm all rated 2.3 on his one-to-ten scale. The worst was his nostril (9.0), upper lip (8.7) and the shaft of his manhood (7.3), which – obviously -- is yet another reason to keep one’s zipper pulled up.

In the field of physics, researchers determined after deep study it takes almost every animal 21 seconds to urinate. Doesn’t make any difference if it is an elephant with a five-gallon bladder or a tree squirrel with a much-smaller bucket – the average time for horses, kangaroos and leopards is 21 seconds under ideal conditions. NOTE: this does not include your dog when he is visiting in the yard of another dog because “marking territory” doesn’t count.

For biology, determined scientists got a bunch of young, hardy chickens and attached artificial tails on the birds. This way they were able to move each bird’s center-of-mass to behind the chickens’ legs. So, sure enough, the idea that meat-eating dinosaurs stood on two legs (called theropods) makes perfect sense.

Remember this: It was Sherlock Holmes who once reminded us: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." To find out more, please look at the website www.improbable.com I promise you it is a hoot.

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: This Madness Must Stop

Trump Voting And Vaccine Policies In Conflict

Marco Perez Thanks Voters In District 2


If you haven’t heard, “caravans of looters” descended on Chicago Sunday night. Over 100 blatant criminals were arrested, and 13 police officers were injured. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot quickly ... (click for more)

President Trump has announced his minimal support for mail-in voting in the upcoming presidential election - only in the most limited of circumstances. Specifically, the president says ... (click for more)

I am deeply honored and humbled by the response and support I received from District 2 voters. In the last few years we have made great advances in education and we are ready to continue on this ... (click for more)



Opinion

Roy Exum: This Madness Must Stop

If you haven’t heard, “caravans of looters” descended on Chicago Sunday night. Over 100 blatant criminals were arrested, and 13 police officers were injured. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot quickly announced the National Guard should not be called in, saying the Chicago Police Department was in control. In non-related news, it was learned that from Friday at 12 p.m. until Monday ... (click for more)

Trump Voting And Vaccine Policies In Conflict

President Trump has announced his minimal support for mail-in voting in the upcoming presidential election - only in the most limited of circumstances. Specifically, the president says he supports vote by mail in Florida and maybe in a very few other states, where the mail-in voting system has been developed and perfected over “many, many years.“ The president does not ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Police Chief Roddy Says Violence In Chattanooga Mirroring That In Many Other Cities

Police Chief David Roddy said a surge in violence in Chattanooga since late May is mirroring that of many other cities across the country. He said homicides and aggravated assaults here are up 17 percent and criminal shootings have risen 24 percent. At the same time, other categories or crime are about the same or trending down. Chief Roddy said, "There are a lot of theories" ... (click for more)

Hamilton, Bledsoe, Bradley, Marion And Sequatchie Counties Have New Coronavirus Deaths

The Hamilton County Health Department reported Tuesday that the total number of Hamilton County resident deaths has risen to 56, an increase of one since Monday. Total cases now are 6,278 in Hamilton County, up 87. There are 4,763 people that have recovered from the virus in the county. The number of COVID patients in Intensive Care has increased one since Monday to 27. ... (click for more)

Sports

Chattanooga Red Wolves Earn 2-2 Tie At North Texas

The Chattanooga Red Wolves earned a point in USL League One standings Saturday night with a 2-2 tie at North Texas. The Red Wolves are third in the standings behind Greenville Triumph and Union Omaha. Greg Hurst opened the scoring in the third minute. North Texas's Beni Redzic scored in teh 47th and the 87th minute to give the home team a 2-1 lead. Marky Hernandez tied the ... (click for more)

Riley Hickman Raising Twin Ooltewah Teenagers Ready To Race Soon

The "Hustler" Riley Hickman of Ooltewah has his hands full in a different and unique aspect of his racing career. Winning nearly 100 various Late Model features over the past 20 years in and around Tennessee, North Georgia and Northeast Alabama, the most important aspect has been his twin sons. Now, at 13 Drew and Dillon (sitting on the door area - talking with dad) are interested ... (click for more)