The Ig Informal Lectures, today at MIT! You’re invited.

September 20th, 2014

Today the new Ig Nobel Prize winners attempt to explain, if they can, what they did and why they did it. The winners received their prizes Thursday evening, at the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

Come be part of this improbable [definition of "improbable": "not what you expect"] event!

The Ig Informal Lectures
Saturday, Sep 20, 2014 — 1:00 pm
MIT, Building 26, Room 100

mit-26mapA half-afternoon of improbably funny, informative, informal, brief public lectures and demonstrations:

The Ig informal Lectures are a free event, organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore.

Seating is limited, so we suggest you arrive a bit early.

(What happens at the Ig Informal Lectures? Here’s a spectator’s report from last year, 2013.)

Here’s a quick video rundown of some of the new winners, as reported by the ODN network. Below it, a glimpse of the endless array of wonders worked by Dr. Nakamats:

What it’s like to be on stage at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony

September 19th, 2014

What’s it like to be on stage at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony?

Here’s a visual/aural taste, recorded by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, who helped hand out the Ig Nobel Prizes to the winners at last night’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony:

A Swedish TV news report about the 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes

September 19th, 2014

Swedish TV4’s Nyhyterna program produced a report about last night’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Here’s the beginning of their report (which also includes an interview about herring farts with Haken Westerberg, co-winner of the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for biology):

Udda forskning belönas

Harvarduniversitetet delar varje år ut forskningspriset Ignobel – ett pris som vid första anblick kan tyckas vara spektakulärt eftersom det handlar om udda forskningsinsatser.

What happened at the book launch of Too [video]

September 19th, 2014

WGBH Forum produced this video of US launch of my new book This Is Improbable Too. The launch happened Friday, September 5, at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge. I and several members of the Ig Nobel gang  — Robin AbrahamsMelissa FranklinCorky White, and Gus Rancatore — did brief dramatic readings from studies I wrote about in the book.

You can get This Is Improbable Too from Harvard Bookstore, as well as most other good bookstores, and also from Amazon and the other mysterious online booksellers.

The book has gotten nice reviews in USA Today,  Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, I and it have been bobbing around radio land, on The Bob Edwards Show, Radio Boston, The Marilu Henner Show, and others. More is on the way, including a journey to the fabled radio land of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk Radio.

The review I’m proudest of is the one in England’s Daily Mail, which said the book is “almost dementedly inconsequential.”

this-is-improbable-too-COVER-450-ix

BONUS: My other new book (done together with Corky and Gus): The Ig Nobel Cookbook (volume 1), which also is available at Harvard Bookstore.

In re slipping on a banana peel

September 19th, 2014

Bethany Brookshire (aka SciCurious) attended last night’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Her report (in Science News)  about the physics prize winner, begins:

Banana peel slipperiness wins IgNobel prize in physics

BOSTON — We’ve all seen the cartoons. Bugs Bunny wolfs down a banana and casually tosses the skin onto the floor. Moments later, Elmer Fudd comes racing in, steps on the banana peel and goes flying. The music plays, and Bugs Bunny wins the day again. That wascally wabbit.

No one has ever really questioned this scenario, though few of us have encountered a banana peel in such a dangerous fashion. It just makes sense that banana peels would be slippery if stepped on. But Kiyoshi Mabuchi and colleagues at Kitasato University in Minato, Japan, were not satisfied with mere legend. They decided to find out just how slick that banana peel really is.

In an awards ceremony at Harvard University on September 18, the researchers received the IgNobel prize in physics for the work. The IgNobels celebrate the truly unusual in science, technology, engineering and math. The studies honored by the prizes often make people laugh. But there’s usually serious science behind the quirky studies.

To determine exactly how slippery a banana peel is, Mabuchi and colleagues sacrificed a total of 12 Cavendish bananas, the iconic yellow banana found on grocery shelves around the world….

BONUS: This video shows a person named Henriette conducting her own preliminary tests without any measurements: