Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

The Dunning-Kruger Song

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

By somewhat popular demand, here’s a video of “The Dunning-Kruger Song”:

The song honors the research study “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 77, no. 6, December 1999, pp. 1121-34.

For writing that paper, Dunning and Kruger were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for psychology, in the year 2000.

The behavior described in Dunning and Kruger’s study has become known as “the Dunning-Kruger Effect.” The Dunning-Kruger effect is on display every day, all around you.

“The Dunning Kruger Song” is the thrilling conclusion of “The Incompetence Opera,” which you can watch in its entity, if you wish.

Dakota McCoy and the Blacker-Than-Black Bird Plumage

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Biologist Dakota McCoy, (seen here performing with a tray of drinks in hand, in “The Incompetence Opera,” part of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) has a new study about color in birds. McCoy, together with colleagues Teresa FeoTodd Alan Harvey, and Richard O. Prum, published “Structural absorption by barbule microstructures of super black bird of paradise feathers,” in the journal Nature Communications.

Ed Yong, in The Atlantic magazine, writes an appreciation of the study:

Super-Black Is the New Black
Feathers on birds of paradise contain light-trapping nanotechnology that makes some of the deepest blacks in the world.

Blackbirds, it turns out, aren’t actually all that black. Their feathers absorb most of the visible light that hits them, but still reflect between 3 and 5 percent of it. For really black plumage, you need to travel to Papua New Guinea and track down the birds of paradise.

Although these birds are best known for their gaudy, kaleidoscopic colors, some species also have profoundly black feathers. The feathers ruthlessly swallow light and, with it, all hints of edge or contour. They make body parts seem less like parts of an actual animal and more like gaping voids in reality. They’re blacker than black….

Here are some images from the study:

The 100th birthday of Murphy—the Murphy of Murphy’s Law

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

If our information is not wrong, Thursday, January 11, 2018 is the 100th birthday of Edward A. Murphy, Jr., the Murphy of Murphy’s Law.

Murphy [pictured here] was posthumously awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, shared with two colleagues. The 2003 Ig Nobel Prize for engineering was awarded to:

The late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy’s Law, the basic engineering principle that “If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it” (or, in other words: “If anything can go wrong, it will”).

WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY [VIDEO]: (1) Author Nick T. Spark , on behalf of John Paul Stapp’s widow, Lilly. (2) Edward Murphy’s Edward A. Murphy III, on behalf of his late father. (3) George Nichols, via audio tape.

The Dayton Innovation Legacy website has a nice appreciation of Captain Murphy. They remark: “An engineer who spent a lifetime studying reliability and safety in order to prevent human error, Edward A. Murphy coined ‘Murphy’s Law’ with an offhand remark. While stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the late 1940’s, Ed Murphy was a member of the Engineers Club of Dayton.”

The claim that Murphy himself coined the phrase “Murphy’s Law” is in dispute, which of course is in accord with Murphy’s Law.

George Nichols, leader of the project that gave birth to the phrase Murphy’s Law, contended that Murphy gets too much credit for Murphy’s Law. Details of the dispute are in Nick Spark’s report about the history of the name Murphy’s Law: “The Fastest Man on Earth” [published in the Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 9, no. 5, Sept/Oct 2003, and later expanded into book form]. The New York Times obituary of John Paul Stapp, for one, gives an account of Murphy’s role that is almost backwards from other versions of the history.

Here’s video of the project that, unplannedly, gave birth to the name “Murphy’s Law”:

BONUS INFO: The 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for physics also dealt with Murphy’s Law. That prize was awarded to

Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy’s Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.

REFERENCE: “Tumbling toast, Murphy’s Law and the fundamental constants,” European Journal of Physics, vol.16, no.4, July 18, 1995, p. 172-6.

The Incompetence Opera (including the Dunning-Kruger song)

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Here’s video of the premier performance of “The Incompetence Opera”:

“The Incompetence Opera” is a musical encounter with the Peter Principle and the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
And with the word “so.”

This opera premiere was part of the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, September 14, 2017, at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University.

The opera is composed of three short acts. “The Dunning Kruger Song” is the final act.

The entire opera libretto was printed in IgBill, the program handed out to the 1100 audience members in Sanders Theatre that evening. You can download IgBill as a PDF.

The libretto is also included in the special Ig Nobel issue (vol. 23, no. 6, November/December 2017) of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

BONUS INFO: Ig Nobel Prizes have honored both the Dunning-Kruger Effect (directly, with the Psychology Prize, in the year 2000) and the Peter Principle (indirectly, with the Management Prize in the year 2008). Ig Nobel Prizes, of course, honor achievements that make people LAUGH, then THINK.

UPDATE JANUARY 2018: Dakota McCoy—whom you can see in the opera video, performing with a tray of drinks in hand—has published a new biology study. For details see “Dakota McCoy and the Blacker-Than-Black Bird Plumage.”

UPDATE JANUARY 2018: By popular demand, we have put up a video, also, of that concluding song of The Incompetence Opera. We hope you find it useful in discussions. Here is The Dunning-Kruger Song:

Further physics insight from walking backwards with coffee

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

The authors derive their inspiration from an Ig Nobel prize-winning paper describing a basic mechanical model that investigates the results of walking backwards while carrying a cup of coffee.”

So says the report “Mathematical model reveals solution to sloshing coffee,” in

The Ig Nobel Prize-winning paper about walking backwards while carrying a cup of coffee was itself inspired by an earlier Ig Nobel Prize-winning paper about walking forwards while carrying a cup of coffee.