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


Dog Abuse On Signal Mountain

Simple War Widow Leaves A Memorable Legacy

Planning Ahead For Winter Road Safety


I just witnessed a very disturbing and disgusting example of dog abuse on Signal Mountain. It took place in Old Town near Alexian Brothers. A man who was in his late 30s to early 40s, wearing ... (click for more)

Every day it seems we read the obituary of another unheralded senior citizen from one town or another across our land, that time has finally taken from us. A grandpa, grandma, uncle, aunt, cousin ... (click for more)

The long awaited season of autumn has finally arrived in Bradley County. This time of year brings along some very special moments that we can all look forward to year-round: meeting a cool breeze ... (click for more)


Opinion

Dog Abuse On Signal Mountain

I just witnessed a very disturbing and disgusting example of dog abuse on Signal Mountain. It took place in Old Town near Alexian Brothers. A man who was in his late 30s to early 40s, wearing shorts, with an athletic if not hefty build, was running a chocolate lab or a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The incident took place in the early morning. The dog stopped for a breather. When ... (click for more)

Simple War Widow Leaves A Memorable Legacy

Every day it seems we read the obituary of another unheralded senior citizen from one town or another across our land, that time has finally taken from us. A grandpa, grandma, uncle, aunt, cousin or friend that bravely served our country in uniform, and even worked in our factories that supplied our troops with the means to fight. They will forever be remembered as one of those ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Motorcyclist, 30, Killed On Interstate 24 After Rear-Ending Tractor-Trailer At High Rate Of Speed

A motorcyclist was killed Saturday afternoon on Interstate 24. The crash occurred at 18400 Interstate 24 eastbound at approximately 4:33 p.m. The CPD Traffic Unit responded to the scene. A Suzuki motorcycle was traveling near mile marker 184 at a high rate of speed when the driver struck the rear of an International semi-truck. The man, 30, separated from ... (click for more)

University Of Georgia Photographer From Ringgold Released From Hospital After Scary Incident

A University of Georgia photographer who was knocked unconscious as she stood on the sidelines at the Auburn game on Saturday has been released from the hospital. Chamberlain Smith was carted off the field after being struck by a player and was taken to East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. Her mother, Layna Smith, later said she was "conscious & in good spirits." ... (click for more)

Sports

Lee Wins First Gulf South Soccer Championship

Yotam Balbul headed home the lone goal of the match in the 81st minute to give the Lee men's soccer team its first Gulf South Conference Championship in program history with a 1-0 shutout of West Florida on Sunday afternoon from the Ashton Brosnaham Park. Balbul connected off a corner kick from Jared McWhorter to give the Flames the advantage late in the title game. Lee kept ... (click for more)

Lee Women Win 92-66 Over Clark Atlanta, Improve To 4-0

Five Lee players scored in double figures and a total of 13 Lady Flames scored points in a 92-66 victory over Clark Atlanta inside Walker Arena on Saturday evening. The win improved the unbeaten Lady Flames record to 4-0 on the year and they will be back in action on Wednesday, hosting Bryan College in another 6 p.m. tip. “Clark Atlanta is much improved from last year and forced ... (click for more)