Ig Nobel Prize winner BP will pay $18.7 billion, reportedly

July 2nd, 2015

BP, which was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2010, is in the news again for the actions that won that prize. The New York Times reports:

BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

NEW ORLEANS — The Gulf Coast states and the federal government have reached a tentative settlement with BP for the British oil company to pay $18.7 billion over 18 years, to compensate for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, state officials said Thursday….

The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix.

Weight? Wait — don’t tell me in kilos. (BWMA)

July 2nd, 2015

The British Weights and Measures Association (BWMA) exists, it says, “to protect and promote British weights and measures, and to oppose compulsory use of the metric system”.

Their catchy slogan: “campaigning for inch-pound industries and consumer interests”.

They maintain a list of “Corporate Culprits” — people and groups of whom they say:

Just who are the people who would have us all “go metric”? Who do they represent? What are their motives? BWMA reveals some of the answers in this rogues’ gallery of busybodies, bureaucrats, boffins and cowboys.

Among these culprits one finds the UK Metric Association and Lord Taverne [pictured here]:

Lord Taverne is a Patron of the UK Metric Association. He was the minister in charge of decimalisation of the coinage in 1968, and sees metrication as part of the same process.

BONUS: Inch by inch…:

UPDATE: Investigator Mathew Wasley informs us of the BWMA’s generous campaign, some years ago, to save the litre.

Podcast #18: Personal space at the beach

July 1st, 2015

Personal spacing at the beach, pseudostupidity, and other things, turn up  in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on Play.it or iTunes, to get a new episode every week, free.
[NEWS: Soon, the podcast will also be available on Spotify.]

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS Play.it web site, and on iTunes (and soon, also on Spotify).

A generator of lyrics and music from academic papers

July 1st, 2015

“This work attempts to create lyrics from academic papers and appropriate melodies to go with them. We believe this system can also be modified to use different initial data sources, be it text sources for the lyrics or music sources for the music style. We chose academic papers as input due to their diversity and availability. Furthermore, due to their usual seriousness, it was our opinion that it would be amusing, not only for readers but also for authors, to see these works in a different light.”

The SMUG: Scientific Music Generator has been developed by Marco Scirea, Gabriella A. B. Barros, and Noor Shaker of the Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Julian Togelius at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, New York University, US.

TRY IT: You can try it yourself, online, and hear the delights of such music.

The paper provides a sample which SMUG generated from Darwin’s ‘On the origin of species by means of natural selection’SMUG-music

“Bul let tins first ar gu ments na tu re an is an same thus hist re ca pi tu la tion con tro ver sial ahh p man in ha bi tants”

Their paper is presented today at ICCC 2015: The Sixth International Conference on Computational Creativity, Park City, Utah, US, June 29 – July 2, 2015. The conference programme, including papers on AI cocktail generation, AI computer-aided humour and AI automatic painting, can be found here.

UPDATE: The authors have kindly alerted us to the existence of an online version of SMUG. Improbable has uploaded the paper ‘Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin’ (by the winners of the 2014 Ig Nobel physics prize, Kibyyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai) The paper is now available as a lyrical and musical rendition.

Upload your paper of choice (in .pdf format) here.

A look back at the opening of the Improbable Research European Bureau

June 30th, 2015

It’s exciting to look back, every now and again, at the opening of Improbable Research’s European Bureau, in 2006.