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Sep 24 2015

The Breakfast Club (2015 Ig Nobels)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIt’s kind of a parody of the Nobel Prize, the stated goal is to make you laugh, then think.

We’re brought up with this concept of the Scientist as a sort of Warrior/Priest battling space alien buggy things (or making them) and inventing wizzy bang death rays and such, clad in their mystic lab coat ($21 in any Work Clothing/Uniform catalog).  Well, maybe not personally, usually there’s a whole puddle of corpses before the climax of the story when the Scientist is destroyed by his creation (or nemisis) so the hero can get the girl who’s been emotionally conflicted (or mind controlled) up to his timely demise.  The End.

Science is nothing at all like that and is in fact mostly about measuring things and writing down numbers.

Let’s say you’re a swashbuckling Archeologist.  You’ll be stuck in a jungle or desert sure, but you’ll spend all day every day digging, measuring, writing and for every hour in the field you’ll have to work 20 or more to figure out what exactly you found.

Let alone what it means, about which you’re almost sure to be totally, completely wrong.

And that’s if you’re a Lion Tamer, if you’re an Accountant you’ll work your entire lifetime on some quirky subject that nobody understands or appreciates.  Better love it, you’ll be spending a looong time with it.

The thing about the Ig Nobels is that they are, for the most part, genuine typical science.  The subjects may seem odd and funny (see 4 penised Echidnas below.  Relax, only 2 ejaculate at a time) but like the Golden Fleece the projects generally relate to larger and more important goals of which the named research is only a small part.

For instance unboiling eggs, that is so silly.

The chemistry prize went to American and Australian researchers who managed to partially unboil an egg with a vortex fluid device, a high speed machine that converts unfolded proteins into folded proteins.

Their results, published in ChemBioChem, show that the team was able to refold proteins thousands of times faster than previous methods. In theory, the device has far greater application than resetting eggs: it could do everything from revolutionize the manufacturing of cancer treatments to overhaul the industrial production of cheese.

Yup.  So remember that as you consider the 2015 winners.

2015 Ig Nobel prizes: dinosaur-like chickens and bee-stings to the penis

by Alan Yuhas, The Guardian

Thursday 17 September 2015 23.31 EDT

Entomologist Justin Schmidt and Cornell researcher Michael Smith jointly won for their painstaking experiments charting how painful insect stings are, and where the stings hurt worst. Smith pressed bees up against different parts of his body until the insects stung him, five stings a day, a total of 25 different locations, for 38 days. He rated the pain one to 10, and published.

The most painful parts: the nostril, the upper lip, the shaft of the penis.

Smith was joined onstage by Schmidt, who has also sacrificed various parts of his body for science in his decades specializing in stinging insects. Schmidt’s “sting pain index” rates only on a scale of one to four, but also features the entomologist’s descriptions of 78 sorts of stings, written with the flair of a sommelier in a wine cellar with something to prove.

The bald-faced hornet, for instance, is in Schmidt’s estimation: “rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.” Yellowjackets, on the other hand, sting “hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.” Both rate a two.

The four-plus-rated bullet ant, in contrast, punishes a victim with “pure, intense, brilliant pain, like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel”.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

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