As a culture, we crave the opportunity to honor the best. Beauty pageants, Movie and Arts Awards and the Nobel Prizes. There are awards for the best body builders and even fitness instructors have a chance at the podium. Luckily for people like me who have a passion for the absurd, the Ignoble also happen every year. In fact they happened last Thursday night. As always, they were sponsored by the Journal of Improbable Research and mirror the Nobel Prizes from the estate of Alfred Nobel – the inventor of dynamite.
The Prize for Physics
This went to the Japanese team of Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the friction between a shoe and a banana peel, and between a banana peel and the floor, when a person steps on a peeling and ends up on the floor. At least someone is paying attention. This gives the mathematics of one of the simplest forms of humour.
“Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin,” Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151.
Peers honoured the Chinese and Canadian team of Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast. That had me wondering as well.
“Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.
The Australian team of Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons found a reason to examine people’s sleeping habits, concluding that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.
“Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits,” Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE
The prize goes to the Czech Republic, Japan, USA and India ( Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for determining whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat. I’ve always said that if your cat bites you, bite him back
“Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.
“Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585.
This year the prize went to the Czech, German and Zambian trsm of Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, They found that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines. Does this mean that if you get lost without a compass, you tell north by how the dog dumps?
“Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 27, 2013.
Italian researchers ran away with the prize. Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, measured pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam. Fellini was on to something. Next we’ll have drive-in biker flicks in the ruins of the Coliseum.
“Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds,” Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.
Italy was on the podium again as Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions. I thought Stats Canada would have worn for proudly proclaiming that 200 jobs were created in Canada in July.
“European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010),” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.
This went to the USA nad India where Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, treated “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork. What will the do with bleeding hemorrhoids?
“Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia,” Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.
Norway Germany, USA and Canada shared this one as Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.It could have been polar bears disguised as humans
“Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya,” Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.
The coveted prize weht to the Spanish team of Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, for their study isolating lactic acid bacteria form baby poop and using it to make fermented sausages Is that how they make cocktail weenies?
“Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.” Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311.
I suppose I look forward to these annual ceremonies because the resemble the type pf work I was doing as a grad student in archaeology. I was identifying chemicals (blood, fat, pitch and amino acids) from stone tools. I was getting blood from stone, in other words. The work did carry on without me. Only recently, researchers determined an early date for the domestication of the horse, as they identified mare’s milk from an ancient piece of pottery.
You might ask how that has anything to do with the domestication of the horse intil you picture yourself trying to milk a wild one.
Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .
He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there, “Aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look.
He is an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”
He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at email@example.com or at 604-464-4105. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.