Friday, October 06, 2006

The igNobel prizes

The prizes for improbable research are back again. I think they are currently suffering from too much load on their servers so here is the link to Google News.

It is always good the have a bit of a laugh at how focused some of the scientific research can be. So, here are some of my favourites :)

BIOLOGY — Bart Knols and Ruurd de Jong, for showing that female malaria mosquitoes are attracted equally to the smell of Limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

MEDICINE — Francis Fesmire, for his medical case report “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage”; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven for their subsequent medical case report.

PHYSICS — Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, for their insights into why dry spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces when bent.

From the abstract:
"When thin brittle rods such as dry spaghetti pasta are bent beyond their limit curvature, they often break into more than two pieces, typically three or four. With the aim to understand these multiple breakings, we study the dynamics of a rod bent just below its limit curvature and suddenly released at one end. We find that the sudden relaxation of the curvature at the newly freed end leads to a burst of flexural waves, whose dynamics are described by a self-similar solution with no adjustable parameters. These flexural waves locally increase the curvature in the rod and we argue that this counter-intuitive mechanism is responsible for the fragmentation of brittle rods under bending. A simple experiment supporting the claim is presented."

ACOUSTICS — D. Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand for their experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

(via the spotlight radio):
"The scientists performed experiments on willing people. They chose one of the most disliked sounds. Do you recognise it? Can you remember sitting in a classroom at school? The teacher would stand at the front. She would write on a blackboard. There was always someone who waited for the teacher to leave the room. They would run to the front of the room. And then, they put their fingers at the top of the black board. They moved their fingernails slowly down the board. Listening to this sound still makes you feel horrible!"