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1999 Ig Nobel Winners!

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  • We need more of these products commercially aavailable, I'd also like oil slicks and the like. Ohh, I harken back to the days of Spy Hunter, now where'd I put my CD of the Peter Gunn Theme??
  • SCIENCE EDUCATION: The Kansas Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in
    Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or
    Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease.

    thats just sick. i personally think that is insane. when i heard that kansas had done that i laughed. but now seeing it win a honorable recognition like that makes me mad. we really may be degrading as a society here. i thought we got over the whole "there is no god we are just organisms" thing years ago.

    *sigh* just when you start to hope

    tyler
  • Seriously, I really must disagree with awarding Steve Penfold the award for Sociology. If you're not Canadian, you wouldn't believe the importance of donut shops here. *Especially* Tim Hortons.
    Tim's is a national institution, on par with pubs in Britain.

    But as for the Science Education award, they were absolutely right. :)
  • Did you... ummm... read the rest of them?

    ---
    Joseph Foley
    InCert Software Corp.
  • you are aware, of course, that this is the Ig Nobel Prize, we're talking about here, right?

    anyone who wins one of these definitely wouldn't be considered to have been honored in any sense of the word.
  • by fable2112 (46114) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:03AM (#1645465) Homepage
    OK. The idea that, right off the bat, evolution shouldn't be taught because the Bible says the world was created in 4004 BC is just batty. Especially when one stops to consider that what appears in the Bible as "day" really means "period of time," and with a few minor exceptions the order that things were "created" in is a pretty good match for evolutionary theory. I also think that the theory of evolution is the best one out there.


    Now, all that said, I've got some serious problems with people who claim there is no God and then turn around and turn Science into God. Scientific rationalism can be (and these days, often is) taken much too far, in the same way that Christianity can.


    I consider myself quite religious, though I am not Christian. And the replacement of the Judeo-Christian God with the "non-God" of scientific rationalism just shifts the good/evil paradigm slightly. It really doesn't change the black-and-white outlook that most people seem to have. "I'm right, and I have PROOF! Therefore, you're an immoral idiot." Isn't it time to evolve past this (so to speak)? ;)


    (And before someone jumps all over me for this, I'm not trying to claim that the world was literally, actually, created by the remains of a giant cow. I do think that scientific evolution is the best *guess* we currently have as to "how we got here," but I don't want kids taught that Science is God any more than I want them forced to pray to Jesus every day.)

  • It seems you're missing the point. The Ig Nobel prize is not "honorable recognition." I believe it was given to them not for their beliefs, but their methods.

    Not teaching something in science because its a theory rules out just about everything.
  • by orac2 (88688) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:08AM (#1645468)
    Awarding the Ig-noble to the tea-dunker and the tea-spout mathematician was unfair, given that the Ig-noble is really for worthless or inane stuff. Both are reasonably knotty problems; I remember when people though of research into foams [www.tcd.ie] in the same way (what could be more trivial than froth?) - but it lead to significant theoretical and practical advances in solid state physics and beyond. The possible commercial benefits of making a biscuit that doesn't collaspe into goop at the bottom of your mug is obvious and the non-drip tea spout is a piece of interesting and non-trivial math as I'm sure anyone who's tried to model fluids can testify. It may look not look very weighty now but who knows - Riemann's non-euclidian geometry was totally useless for anything for generations, until Einstein built Relativity on top of it.

  • The prize awarded for medicine was just way too funny. A rotating table to facilitate with childbirth here [colitz.com].

    imabug

  • SCIENCE EDUCATION: The Kansas Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease.

    Coming from a religious camp, if I live in a country where religion is taught in school (and I do), and my goverment suddenly that mandate that school children no longer need to believe in God, I would freak out the same way as they do.

    Interesting parallel, don't you think?

    Anyhow, these people should be careful about mentioning Pasteur. Scientists used to believe in this theory called 'spontaneous generation theory'. If you leave a piece of food in the open air, germs will automagically form. Pasteur proposed that germs did come from nowhere but already exist in the air. Pasteur and others where heavily criticized for this.

    One scientist tried to disprove this theory by the glucose solution in a beaker an stuffing it with cork. No bacterial growth was observed. Spontenous theory advocates pointed out that when you stuff the beaker with cork, you cut out the air supply which is needed by the bacteria so the theory still holds.

    Pasteur did the same experiment but this time stuff the beaker with cork with an S-tube. This should supply the beaker with fresh air but will trap the incoming bacteria in the S-tube. No bacterial growth was observed. Spontenous generation theory is debunked.

    Why is the spontenous generation theory is sooo important? It supports the idea that humans are not created but evolved from bacteria spontenously created out of thin air.

    Hasdi

  • The prize awarded for medicine was just way too funny. A rotating table to facilitate with childbirth here [colitz.com].
    A patent was actually awarded for it too!

    imabug
  • by Anonymous Coward
    On behalf of the state regents, I would like to thank everybody who helped contribute, from all those idiots writing to the local papers to the people on the board who have shown just how great our education system. It is unfortunate the members of the regents are unable to accept the award personally since this is the time of the day they're still trying to get their head out of their butts. But I know someday, they will be successful, maybe after they are voted out of office.

    Sorry, but there's no way I will admit who I really am. :)
  • Hey. This is serious stuff!

    The Royal Canadian Air Farce [tv.cbc.ca] has a recurring sketch about a bunch of canucks discussing current events in the donut shop.
    In small towns (well, big ones too>, the donut shop is where people gather and spread gossip.
    It sounds no more ludicrous than Sociological research of Tea Rooms or Pubs in the British Isles.
    ---

  • Hello! The article from last Dec was about the car flame thrower. Today's article is about the awarding of the 1999 Ig Nobel prizes, of which one of them was the aforementioned flame thrower. There were many other prizes mentioned in the article linked...

    No, /. isn't going down, just the ability of the posters to read the information presented (yeah, I'm guilty of it too at times).

    --
  • You know, on a Triumphs mailing list I was on, this guy had problems of flames shooting out of his exhaust.


    His car was just like mine, a SPITFIRE. Now that's a car that lived up to its name! I should of emailed him on how to do it for my car just in case those Honda drivers get out of line. Hmm..
  • I think we all need to step back and take alook at the big picture here. The Ig Nobel's serve a very good purpose: They highlight the fact that there are people that are actually getting paid to do this sort of research! That is my kind of job! Person: "So, What do you do?" Hermetic: "I dunk biscuits, quite precisely, mind you, and determine what precentage of dunking produces the best taste." Person: "Are you hiring?" I find it amazing that any woman would think that the rotating birth accelerator is a good idea. Did you look at that thing? "Sweetie, I know it hurts, but I think if we strap you in and spin you around really, really fast that kid'll come shooting out of there in no time fast!" Please, Please don't let these people breed.
  • Yeah, if I was into tea and biscuits at 4pm (instead of doughnuts and coffee at 9am, being the fat lazy American slob I am), I'd really like a biscuit that didn't disintegrate the instant it got wet.

    --
  • Actually, designing a low-drip spout is rather useful. I hate drippy spouts. I'm sure pot and carafe makers might care. The biscuit dunking is rather frivolous though.

    I love the 6-page British tea-making specification. Hilarious.
  • In fact, I'd like an EMP gun to waste the electronics of the next idiot whose car alarm goes off as I walk by it in a supermarket parking lot, or the second time that night at 0-dark-thirty, because they've got the sensitivity set to, "a pigeon shat on my car!!!"

    Instead, I have a *far* more useful device (copyright m. roth-whitworth, 1995-99): a rocket launcher for the front of your car to take out the morons who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but who insist on permanently attaching their cell phone to their ear, and driving their SUVs (Stupid lUser Vehicles) *badly* in the left lane.... Now what makes *my* rocket device unique is that it uses a vertical-wedge shaped charge.
    The advantage of this is that it not only takes out the idiot in front of you, but
    1) it splits their vehicle in half up the middle, so that it doesn't get in your way as you keep on driving, and
    2) depending on the lane you're in, the two halves of the vehicle formerly in front of you (VFiFoY) take out the jerks on either or both sides of you, who, seeing the removal of the idiot, would otherwise attempt to cut in front of you.

    See? *Far* more useful, eliminating two or three pollutants from the shallow end of the gene pool for the price of one! Besides, it would make a nice boom!

    mark "now, about the FCC-legal white noise generator on cellphone frequencies..."
  • From the text of the rotating birth table patent:
    In the case of a woman who has a fully developed muscular system and has had ample physical exertion all through the pregnancy, as is common with all more primitive peoples, nature provides all the necessary equipment and power to have a normal and quick delivery. This is not the case, however, with more civilized women who often do not have the opportunity to develop the muscles needed in confinement.

    I get quite a kick from the language in this section; it sounds much like a passage from an enlightenment treatise on `primitive peoples.' Just what `confinement' do these people think `civilized women' need to be kept while they're pregnant?

    Whatever truth there is in this statement certainly suggests that our most common, supposedly civilized method of giving birth, in which the woman lies on her back, should be reconsidered as unhealthy.

  • Pardon me for being dense, but how do you teach kids that Science is God?


    ...phil
  • Hmm, I hope you are just kidding and do realise that these are not the official Nobel prize thingies, but the ng Nobel. In case you missed it:

    WHAT: The annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony honors individuals whose achievements
    "cannot or should not be reproduced." Ten prizes are given to people who have done
    remarkably goofy things -- some of them admirable, some perhaps otherwise. At the
    ceremony, 1200 splendidly eccentric spectators watch the winners step forward to accept their Prizes. The Prizes are physically handed to the winners by genuinely bemused
    genuine Nobel Laureates.


  • Just for the reacord the bottle with the S tube is
    still there, and still free of bacteria well over a century later.
  • I think the patent should have been issued. It is a method which may help childbirth and I think it would work. The patent law forbids a patent for a solution which is obvious to an expert, but it does not forbid a patent for something which is obviously impractical to an expert.

    On the other hand, that patent might apply to the maternity ward on a rotating space station...which has been obvious to experts for decades.

  • Yeah think about it , with this research you should never have to tip your coffee or tea out cause all of biscuit fell in it

    I for one am definately going to be following these times just to see how much better my biscuit can be

    bah what a waste of time and money
  • Yeah, wasn't there a story a long while ago where someone decided to study coffee rings because they thought it odd the way that stains from the bottom of coffee cups dried. Seem to recall that they actually discovered some interesting phenomena that was not previously described.

  • do these guys seem just a bit too preoccupied with tea and coffee?
  • heh i feel silly.
    it was the first article i read in the morning and i wasnt quite with it :P

    please flame me senseless!

    tyler
  • "I'm trying really hard to see this issue from your point of view, but I just can't seem to get my head shoved quite that far up my ass!"

  • In fact, I'd like an EMP gun to waste the electronics of the next idiot whose car alarm goes off as I walk by it in a supermarket parking lot, or the second time that night at 0-dark-thirty, because they've got the sensitivity set to, "a pigeon shat on my car!!!"

    I've been considering mounting an EMP gun in my trunk, aiming backwards mind you, and seeing how it affects cars behind me on the road. I can see enormous practical benefit from this. Cop trying to pull you over for speeding? Just fire off a few bursts of EMP, that'll fix his wagon... :-)

    Anyway, if anyone has a spec to build one of these devices, post a link, mmm-kay?


    ---
  • Do you have a link for the tea specs? I couldn't find it on the ig-noble page and a search on the british standards web site didn't come up with it.
  • I don't intend to take up for the KBE. However, i am amazed that folks accept the theory of evolution so readily. having been educated in the natural sciences, i must say that Darwin's theory is, in places, stretched beyond reason. i'm not saying it's wrong, but there's a lot it does not explain. rattle snakes, for example.
    i think we need to re-consider the origin of species, especially as chaos might be applied. evolution really is a dated theory.
  • by SimonK (7722) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:51AM (#1645494)
    I think this whole science versus religion debate is mistaken really. The problem is that religious texts from the past tend to provide both an account of history, much of which is mythological, but some of which is almost certainly correct, and a system of ethics. Both of these are general wrapped up in a concept of "revelation", that they are the Word of God and therefore beyond any challenge.

    The problem seems to emerge when the account of history is challenged, either by science showing it is impossible, or by historical research showing that they cannot have happened as detailed. To anyone who is knowledgable and honest with themselves, this means either some parts of some sacred texts are false and either are not the Word of God, or science is somehow unreliable. I have trouble relating to the latter view, so I won't even attempt to account for it.

    The former is much more interesting. The very possibility the bible might be false (or even only false in parts, or essentially correct but corrupted) seems to arouse anxiety in many religious persons. This is understandable I guess, but it results in what seem to be less than honest attempts to ignore the evidence by claiming it is "just a theory" (as if any human idea could ever be anything else).

    What I think is missed in this is that the veracity of particular 2000 year old writings has no real baring on the validity of a system of ethics. "Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbour" seems to be a pretty good way to live regardless of whether man evolved from apes or a particular man was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to each other for a change.

    To summarise a little: Science has no take on ethics. There is no scientific way to live your life. Similarly religious views of the physical world should give way to scientific ones.
  • The URL posted on the Ig Noble site should be http://www.yorku.ca/ dept/histarts/gradhist/grad_cv/penfold.htm [yorku.ca]

    imabug
  • And you can actually buy it [cnn.com] to install on your car! seems relatively cheap too.

    imabug
  • I am a product of the Kansas Education system and I'll tell you now that they haven't been teaching Evolution in schools anyway, now they have just made it official. When we were supposed to be learning about evolution they had a priest come in and talk about noah's ark and how the dinosaurs couldn't surrive on it, and that is why they all died. (I had to leave the class because I was laughing so hard.)


    Another thing about my school, they had a sexual education class, but what we had to do was memorize all the bones in the human body. They ripped all the pages out of our textbooks that contained the word "sex"!
  • Hasdi, the reference to Pasteur does not mention the spontaneous generation theory. As you pointed out, it was debunked for good; and has no scientific basis whatsoever. The poster who referenced Pasteur mentions Pasteur's discovery of germs as the reason of diseases-one of the most valuable contributions of science to mankind, perhaps. A discussion of the spontaneous generation theory is, IMHO, irrelevant here. And I don't think spontaneous generation has ever been taken seriously by anyone in scientific circles, anyway.
  • I love the 6-page British tea-making specification. Hilarious.

    Have you seen the corresponding standard?

    BS 5987:1980 ( ISO 1839-1980)

    Methods for sampling tea
    Confirmed, Current 8 pgs

    And both of them seem to ISO as well... :-)
    Pity that they want £20.- from non-members to get any of them... :-{

    Thomas
  • Very much so. But the slide strips with Prof. Lipscomb making a cup of tea were a riot. There's just something about pictures of a seemingly doddering old man with an acetyline torch...
  • Uh... spontaneous generation was taken *very* seriously in scientific circles. It used to be taken as a matter of fact by anyone who had any background in the matter.
  • by cje (33931) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:07AM (#1645504) Homepage
    The very possibility the bible might be false (or even only false in parts, or essentially correct but corrupted) seems to arouse anxiety in many religious persons.

    The problem that many folks have is that they worship the Bible instead of the God that it talks about. They are more interested in holding it to a preposterous standard of inerrancy than they are in studying its deeper meaning. This amounts to little more than idolatry. When people use their own eyes and brains to make observations of the physical world and discover that said observations conflict with what is written in the Bible, they decide that God must be wrong and worship the book instead.

    The doctrine of young-Earth creationism (the "universe is 6,000 years old" folks) requires its adherents to worship a deliberately deceitful God that will sentence them to an eternity of torture for having the audacity to use the brains, creativity, curiosity, and common sense they were given. I simply fail to understand why so many people are willing to characterize their God in such a manner. It is certainly not a flattering portrayal.

    "Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbour" seems to be a pretty good way to live regardless of whether man evolved from apes or a particular man was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to each other for a change.

    Truer words were never spoken!
  • /Darwinism/ is a dated theory. Many of the mechanisms for evolution that Darwin suggested have been abandoned for a long time. (Which isn't to say that the current theories explain everything.)

    The difference is that Creationists try to argue, not that the theories don't accurately describe evolution, but that evolution doesn't happen, which is just loony.
  • by Lucius Lucanius (61758) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:15AM (#1645506)
    The process that takes place during tea making is known as "leaching", familiar to students of chemical engineering. Leaching involves the extraction of soluble chemicals from a solid or porous object by subjecting it to a current of liquid solvent. The design of leaching equipment is both complex and well studied, and involves optimization using methods such as cross-current and counter current flow (to extract as much as possible by trying to increase the concentration gradient and effective factors such as temperature, pressure, etc.)

    I normally follow the following unique procedure -

    1) Mix 1/2 cup water and milk

    2) Bring it to a boil

    3) Dunk in the tea leaves (real ones, not the stupid teabag thingie), turn off the heat, keep covered

    4) Let it sit for 2-3 minutes

    5) Filter using an appropriate mechanism

    6) Add your preferred amount of sugar

    This was described to me by a guy from India, and it comes out quite strong and flavorful. It, however, is not the l33t connoisseur's methodology, which normally involves boiling water and adding the tea leaves, then waiting for a longer period of time (5-6 mins).

    Note - Use actual tea instead of tea bags (preferably stuff you can find in ethnic stores). Also, let the water run for a while from the faucet - the initial body of water tends to be staler and less oxygenated.

    An alternative method is as follows:

    1) pour desired liquid(s) in said cup and place in a microwave oven.

    2) Nuke till it boils (2:38 mins on my 900 Watt Sharp Carousel)

    3) Add the tea

    4) Wait till it's done.

    Historical footnote - Legend has it that tea was invented accidentally when tea leaves drifted into a Chinese emperor's hot water (which always made me wonder why he was drinking hot water and in a place likely to allow leaves to fall in). Just found this -

    http://www.aromas.com.au/AllTea.html


    There are as many legends surrounding the origins of tea
    drinking as there are for coffee. The most popular tells of the
    Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, in 2,737 BC. He was boiling
    his drinking water under a tree, Camellia sinensis, when
    some leaves fell into the pot. The emperor was so delighted
    with the brew that he began to cultivate the plant. Although
    it is thought the plant originated in India, the earliest
    recorded evidence of its cultivation comes from China in the 4th century. At
    that time, however, the leaves were not brewed as a drink but made into
    cakes and boiled with rice, spices or nuts. Later the dried leaves were
    powdered and whipped into hot water, rather like cocoa. The infusion of tea
    leaves in boiling water which we know today did not become fashionable until
    the Ming Dynasty, from 1368 to 1644.



    Oddly, I couldn't find the British standards institute way of making tea. A search for tea only gives this page :
    http://www.bsi.org.uk/bsi/products/standards/dev elopment/committees/consumer.xhtml

    It does have the wise committee's email addr. Just don't slashdot them asking for tea recipes. :)

    I hereby place the step-by-step tea making code included in this document under the GPL (which can be obtained by writing to the Free Software Foundation, Inc. 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA)

    L.
  • Correction: to be technical, that should have said "speciation doesn't happen", which is a little less loony until you look at the alternatives.
  • It is common on \. to argue that the scientific outlook has no moral center while the religious outlook, having a moral center, ought not make positive claims---i.e., empirically falseifiable claims---about the physical world. This is a relatively modern distinction. The founders of Western Rationalism (which is think is a damn good thing)---i.e., Plato, Socrates etc.---and Western Science---i.e., Descartes---did think that science and/or rationalism has a moral center. Most all moral theories make empirical---i.e., falseifiable---claims. Moreover, the heart of science and rationalism is an understanding that all of our claims are just theories. There is no logic of proof. When it comes to empirical claims, I can not prove anything. I can only attempt to disprove a theory against some alternatives. That's why the true scientist doesn't turn any theory into an unalterable religious doctrine. But a scientist ought to hold all of his/her beliefs to the same standard.

    For example, let us examine the claim that homosexuality and bisexuality is morally wrong but that heterosexuality is just fine. The people who claim such things support their views by (a) claims to authority---i.e., usually some text; and (b) empirical claims such as homosexuals are psychologically disturbed because they are homosexuals and not because of society's reaction to them being homosexual. Now any one reasonable ought to see claims of type (a) as just plain silly, and ought to judge claims of type (b) by the scientific method: "You make these claims about the effects of sexuality on psychological wellbeing, let's go test them!" There is no sharp distinction between science and morality. It would have greatly disturbed the leaders of the Enlightenment to think that their revolution had resulted in a world where knowledge is thought to be completely fractured.
  • ...do these guys seem just a bit too preoccupied with tea and coffee?

    That would be impossible. The importance of tea and coffee approaches infinity.

    "Everybody knows that".
  • From the IgNobel page:

    WHY: The Igs are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science.

    So you see, it doesn't mean they think it's stupid. Just something incredibly weird.

    -=-=-=-=-

  • by Ledge Kindred (82988) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:29AM (#1645513)
    I guess Japan has to wait until next year for its IgNobel prize in physics for attempting to see what adding seven times the normal amount of Uranium to a purification process would do.

    -=-=-=-=-

  • If you think a standard for tea is bad, a quick search on http://bsonline.techindex.co.uk [techindex.co.uk] reveals BS0-1:1997,
    "A British Standard for Standards."
    I wonder if BS0-1:1997 is BSO-1:1997 compliant?
  • I have an interesting view point on the nature of science/religion. Being a VERY reformed jew I have always taken a very loose interpretation of the scriptures. It seems that the high level of beurocracy in the church today has really cause a cessation in religious progress over the past few hundred years. At one time religion and science were pretty much the same, although the scchism between them happened long ago. I guess I follow a somewhat science-as-religion view of the world. The church has never even considered the possibility of a higher power guiding man on the path of scientific discivery. I believe that "god" isn't finnished creating yet, that the higher power (whatever name you choose to use for it) still sees us as a work in progress and set us on the scientific path so that we could finish the job on our own...

    Just a thought.
  • Sir, I think you are missing my point.

    BTW, if anybody wants to learn a few more about Pasteur, you can check out the following links.

    http://www.panspermia.org/pasteur.htm
    http://www.accessexcellence.org/AB/BC/Louis_Past eur.html
    http://www.accessexcellence.org/AB/BC/Spontaneou s_Generation.html

  • SCIENCE EDUCATION: The Kansas Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease.

    Unfortunately, the Ig Nobel prize committee got it wrong. If the above were really what the KBE (don't know about Colorado) proposed, there wouldn't have been so much objection. You can bet Kansas schools DO still teach, and test on, Faraday and Maxwell and Newton's contributions to science. It's just Darwin and his theory that are singled out.

    Whether you believe the stuff (Darwin or Newton or Faraday) is not the point. The point is that it's science and that students get a working knowledge of it. Students probably would be better for having a working knowledge of religion too (their own and other people's) but the science class is not the place to learn it. Because it's not science.

    Teaching that Science is God is wrong too. Science isn't about God, or capital-T Truth. Science is a process. It works, and when it stops working, it gets changed and updated and modified until it does work. A scientists's work is never done, and scientists never know The Truth. All they have is an approximation.

    Beware of any scientist that claims to have The Truth - he/she is not talking about science.

  • I went to the ceremony last night. (I live in Cambridge and it was at Harvard.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun and if you missed it it will be broadcast on the radio (NPR) the day after Thanksgiving. Part of NPRs science Friday, so maybe other good stuff that day too.



    The other neat thing was as I was walking to the bus stop on my way home, I passed through Harvard Square and bumped into Stephen Hawkings. He was in his wheelchair and wandering around Harvard square. Pretty neat. Didn't even know he was in town.

  • I went to the ceremony last night. (I live in Cambridge and it was at Harvard.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun and if you missed it it will be broadcast on the radio (NPR) the day after Thanksgiving. Part of NPRs science Friday, so maybe other good stuff that day too.

    The other neat thing was as I was walking to the bus stop on my way home, I passed through Harvard Square and bumped into Stephen Hawkings. He was in his wheelchair and wandering around Harvard square. Pretty neat. Didn't even know he was in town.

  • *sigh* That's as good an example as any of what I'm talking about, and an area where it is much more dangerous. There are a lot of people who have quite a lot invested in the belief that modern medical technology is the Savior of Us All. Effective alternatives to surgery and a lifetime of drugs for certain diseases are being ignored and/or derided as "New Age Fluff" or "just a placebo" in the name of "modern medical science." People are being put on drugs with horrible side effects that don't actually fix the problem they're supposed to, and paying through the nose for the priviledge, because some doctor said so. THIS is what I mean by treating Science as God.


    Scientists are no more immune from having an agenda than "men of God" are, and "scientific findings" have this interesting way of backing up popular public beliefs, or alternatively of not really seeing the light of day. Phrenology, anyone?

  • I get quite a kick from the language in this section; it sounds much like a passage from an enlightenment treatise on `primitive peoples.'

    I get quite a different and unpleasant sort of kick on viewing the diagrams for the device itself. It looks like some sort of torture apparatus from the Inquisition. (To be fair, the Spaniards didn't go in for sexual torture as such.)

    This looks like a device only a managed-care corporation could love -- Let's get that delivery over with, no matter what the consequences! I hate to think of the complications that could be induced or worsened by using this technique -- in particular, unduly profuse intrauterine or episiotimal bleeding due to the increased forces the mother experiences during the centrifugal acceleration. And that's not even considering the issue of fetal distress.

    Thinking back to an article I saw concerning alternative birthing methods, I recall some positions other than the standard supine presentation we know in the West -- for example, squatting, on hands & knees, perching on a U-shaped birthing stool, and so forth. (One of the most creative was underwater -- apparently the supportive buoyancy was supposed to help the mother.) I believe the preferred method used in "primitive" cultures was squatting, often with a cloth or skin laid on the ground to receive the baby. What happens to truly 'primitive' mothers and neonates who go through labor-specific birth complications? Mom and/or kiddo doesn't necessarily survive to pass on a genetic legacy (Sorry, state of Kansas).

  • Try this site:

    British Standards Online [techindex.co.uk]

    and search for Standard Number 6008.

    Only problem is you have to have 20 English Pounds lying around somewhere, and being a lousy American, I ain't got any. Apparently some of the standards are avilable in .pdf form, but not this one :(
  • With a signature file like that, you really need to know the answer? ;)


    Well, here's a good example: Most school scientific experiments don't deserve the name "experiment". Generally, if you didn't get X for a result (X being whatever's in the teacher's guide), then YOU did something wrong. And the kids who rack up good grades in science classes and win science fairs confine themselves to this type of "experiment" for the most part. There's a built in "right" and "wrong" answer. Don't get me wrong, a lot of these principles need to be taught, but can we please not call them "experiments" when the conclusion is so predetermined?


    And here's another one: The nice doctor and the nice psychologist know exactly what's wrong with you. And they're going to make it all better. Now take your Ritalin, Johny! (Alternatively, take your Zoloft, Jenny!) They're the experts, so they obviously know what's best for you.


    History teachers that make fun of the mythology of other cultures and tell their students how "stupid" and "backward" and "savage" a culture that "believed that stuff" had to be are another excellent example. "WE are intelligent, modern people. We're above all that!" Apparently, some friends of mine had history teachers treat Christianity the same way, much to the ire of several parents.

  • Gee, I thought it was just a funny in the Jargon File [tuxedo.org]. It is a pity...I want that recipe :o)
  • What I've wanted for quite a while is a pneumatic dart gun for the front of my car that can fire suction-cup-tipped darts about 20 cm. long with flame-orange flags attached with the word "asshole!" on them. The suction cups would of course be coated with superglue. If enough of us used these, we would have a community-based system of rating driving quality and traffic courteousness.

    Now as for the cell-phones, is there any way we can increase the brain-cancer-causing aspects of them?

    Doug Loss

  • Pardon, but it doesn't seem like you actually gave any ALTERNATIVE to medical science. People are being put on drugs with horrible side effects that don't actually fix the problem they're supposed to, and paying through the nose for the priviledge, because some doctor said so. Then you're just dealing with a bad doctor. Doesn't mean all of medical science is corrupt just because there are some bad doctors out there. Phrenology, anyone? Huh? Phrenology was never a "science" any more than alchemy was. What's your point?
  • Who ever said science is god (besides scientology freaks)? I don't think any scientist in any definition of the word would ever make an equation between the two. If someone is trying to do this they are really not scientists and rather charlatans.
  • ""OK. The idea that, right off the bat, evolution shouldn't be taught because the Bible says the world was created in 4004 BC is just batty. Especially when one stops to consider that what appears in the Bible as "day" really means "period of time," and with a few minor exceptions the order that things were "created" in is a pretty good match for evolutionary theory. I also think that the theory of evolution is the best one out there.""

    For a review of the whole debate, including the arguments outlined above, check out The Talk.Origins Website [talkorigins.org].
  • In my mind the Igs have always have this sort of problem -- on the one hand they're giving awards to people who have done actual scientific work on stuff that's just out to lunch, but on the other hand they give awards for stuff that is anti-scientific, misanthropic, etc. The awards suffer from the fact that they both condone and condemn, depending on who gets the award.
  • Also from the Ig-Nobel page: WHAT: The annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony honors individuals whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced." This implies that the research is at best an amusing dead end. Neither the dunking or spout research falls into this catagory.

  • Naah, I'd prefer to get a million-candlepower spotlight that's cig-lighter powered and blind tailgaters...

  • A video of the ceremony is available as a Real stream. Unfortunately, nobody thought to spend some time breaking it up into smaller, indexed segments. Streaming media on the public Internet sucks anyways. Hopefuly, I will find it on tape some time.

    My wife was actualy one of the maidens in the opera. I had a class last night so I couldn't go -- I should have bagged the class!

    Can someone who went post a review of the opera?

    thanks,
    pb
  • ...a more intelligent response

    I'd wager any "proof" you can provide has already been debunked time and time again.

    And many "proof" supporting evolution has been debunked time and time again as well...

    don't you see the parallel here?

    In science, we propose numerous hypothesis, and test them to see if it is consistent with experiments. In principle, we should discard it as soon as we run an experiment that conflicts with it.

    In practice, many scientists stick to their hypothesis even in the face of conflicting evidence. Louis Pasteur is one case. Other popular case is Einstein physics vs Newtonian physics. I have my hypothesis, and you have yours. Very often, we're just like lawyers and our client happens to be our hypotheses. We present our evidence and we debunk the other side.

    Did you ever stop to think what if the creationist are right and evolution is wrong? Or do you keep defending your case or debunk whatever they throw at you? Would you think I would have done likewise?

    We may not admit but usually there are unrelated reasons why we believe in a particular hypothesis. Maybe you don't like the idea that one day we will be accountable for our actions. Maybe i don't like the idea that all my the deeds will be all for nothing, or I am in any way 'related' to that furry little animal. Why is that some people would want to mandate one hypthoses to be taught over another, when both have strong supporters?

    Enough ranting. I am back to earning my pay. Maybe I'll continue tonight.

    Hasdi
    PS - yes, my point is italicized
  • by Sloppy (14984)

    That's great!

    But the ratings are useless unless you then apply some sort of selection pressure that uses them. Maybe have toll booths charge diff amts depending on how many darts your car has. Or perhaps the fins on the darts, after they stick, could then turn sideways to provide more aerodynamic drag -- thereby slowing offenders' cars down?

    Hmm.. there's also the problem of people abusing the darts, so there would be cries for meta-moderators...


    ---
    Have a Sloppy day!
  • "The very possibility the bible might be false (or even only false in parts, or essentially correct but corrupted)"

    While possible, the Bible is still one of the most accurate literary texts we have from the old world. For example, there are about 36,000 manuscripts from the dates 50-200AD that textual critics have used to determine that the New Testiment is about 98.3% accurate to what the original authors wrote. On the Old Testement side there are the Dead Sea Scrolls that show that the Old Testiment has remained about 95% accurate over a period of ~900 years. Compare this to the works of Plato of which we have about 7 documents that date back to about 1200 years after his death. Also, I don't know of any historical recordings in the Bible that have been contradicted by science - in fact the more cities and palaces that get uncovered the more accurate we find the Bible to be.

    This doesn't nessasarily mean it is God's Word (kinda up to the individual to decide), but regardless, the 40some authors provide a great insite to how the world was ~600BC. If nothing else its a collection of proverbs and experiances covering a span of ~1500 yrs.

  • Once you have your quota of a dozen or so, the cops automatically pick you up for being an obvious menace on the road. Then you can go to court and explain why the other drivers were just being mean to you. If your story isn't interesting, you can walk for the next thirty days.
  • Who needs a flamethrowing car alarm? Check out the last winner -- the centrifugal birthing table.

    Mount one of those bad boys on top of your car, strap a mother-to-be-any-minute on it, and walk away. I guarantee your car won't get stolen, and any thief brave enough to come within an arm's reach of Mama is going to *wish* it was just a flamethrower.

    Then's there's the potential for using it as a projectile weapon, but I'd think the accuracy would be pretty bad, and it'd take ninth months to reload.

  • Coming from a religious camp, if I live in a country where religion is taught in school (and I do), and my goverment suddenly that mandate that school children no longer need to believe in God, I would freak out the same way as they do.

    I don't particularly care whether people would be bothered by the government disallowing public schools to require that people believe in some religion; I refuse to consider it proper for any government to enforce adherence to any religion, or even to religion in general, in its institutions.

    Besides, plenty of religious people seem to manage to reconcile a belief in their religion with a belief that an evolutionary model for the generation and development of life on earth is the best model we have so far; teaching evolution is inequivalent to teaching atheism, no matter what some folks might think.

    Why is the spontenous generation theory is sooo important? It supports the idea that humans are not created but evolved from bacteria spontenously created out of thin air.

    And who has hypothesized that "humans ... evolved from bacteria spontaneously created out of thin air"? I am unaware that any of the current hypotheses for the appearance of life on earth posit that bacteria were "spontaneously created out of thin air".

    (In addition, even if you do posit that some diety or dieties somehow put the first forms of life on earth, that doesn't mean that said life forms couldn't have evolved into other life forms.

    A lot of the problem some religious people seem to have with evolution appears to be that they believe it implies that there must be no god or gods; as far as I can tell, it is possible to be religious and believe that evolution is the best explanation for the way live exists on earth now and apparently existed in the past, just as it's possible for nonbelievers like me.)

  • For example, there are about 36,000 manuscripts from the dates 50-200AD that textual critics have used to determine that the New Testiment is about 98.3% accurate to what the original authors wrote.

    Which says nothing on how accurate what the original authors wrote is to what actually happened.
  • I can see Nabisco dropping a few $M to fund cookie-specific studies...and to publish the optimal time to dunk an Oreo (among other cookies) in the different kinds of milk (skim, to whipping cream).

    I wonder if I could get an insurance discount for the flame defense system? Too bad it shoots out both sides though. A switch similar to the dual-mirror control should take care of that problem.

    Speaking of which, I think I could use an oreo or two.


    __________________
  • Richard Dawkins (in "The Blind Watchmaker") was quite explicit about people who suppose that, just because they can't think of an explanation, then there can't *be* an explanation. The rattle of rattle snakes is easy to explain: it's a feature, not a bug. Rattle snakes swallow their prey whole so they don't hunt cows or humans. But if some big animal like you or me comes stomping along the snake risks being trampled to death. Sure, it can bite, but that won't help if it has already been trodden on, and it would only mean big panicking feet all over the place. Better far to rattle a bit and make sure no one gets hurt. I'm pretty sure that if a rattle snake sees a mouse it will *not* rattle. It's almost more difficult to explain why more snake species haven't evolved this (though the broad neck of the cobra might be a similar warning signal).
  • Oh no! Vomit city! Did you see the rotational speeds of this thing? Up to 1.37 rot/s!! I can't imagine keeping my lunch down, even at the lowest speed of 0.52 rot/s!
  • So far, I believe it's been "proven" about 85% accurate (New Testament). The other 15% is still under investigation, and may never be verifiable.
    A relatively recent discovery was the discovery of Jesus' crucifiction record, quelling the idea that Jesus never existed, and was made up completely.

    -- Keith Moore
  • I suppose the percentages change depending on the process of verification. The fact that we have about 36,000 documents means that a lot can be done with textual critisism - this disipline is much like working with diff files or parity error correction - overlapping documents are compared for variances and errors corrected. The percent of error I cited (1.7%) was caculated after textual critism - my guess is that the ~15% that you present accounts for all found variances before obvious coping errors, translation issues, mispellings, etc are removed. BTW - this technique is quite common and acepted, even outside biblical research.
  • They should be selling the video soon. I snagged an old copy perviously, and have asked Marc (the MC) about posting a d/l-able version of the video.

    ---
    Spammed? Click here [sputum.com] for free slack on how to fight it!
  • Cool toys, but the one I want on my car is a lightning gun. It would be based on the principles used to make lightning shows [earthlink.net] for theatrical productions (Yes, this is actual electrical lightning, gigawatts of fun.) Instead of using wires, I'd use an ultraviolet laser (nitrogen laser, I think) to ionize the air between the gun and the target to direct the arc. That'll be the last time that luser cuts me off while yakking into a cell-phone.

    One problem I see is getting enough power from the engine's alternator to charge the caps fast enough to fire more often than once a month. I'd also find difficulty with driving while wearing an arc-welding mask to protect my eyes from the flash.

    Well, I can dream, can't I?

  • I'm an American (Usonano) living in Canada and I just can't believe the number of Tim Hortons shops. Four! Count 'em -- four! within easy walking distance of my apartment. There's even one in the building where I work!
  • dammit, I knew I shouldn't have moved to seattle from brighton.
  • Yeah, Hawking is in town for the month shooting the breeze, so to speak, with the profs in the physics dept here at Harvard. He gave two talks this past week, on Mon & Tues, in Sanders Theater, the very same space as used for the Igs. He'll be giving another talk on next Tuesday, and then on the 7th there's a lecture at the Wang center open to the public. Tix for the tuesday lecture are sold out, though; dunno about the later one.

    FWIW, I'm a senior astrophysics major, and I understood quite little of his second lecture; the stuff he's doing is just way over my head even after a couple years studying this stuff. The first lecture, though, was more at the level of Brief History, and was pretty accessible even to nonphysicists.

    He's an amazingly impressive man and I'm very glad to have had the chance to see him in person. Go check him out next week if you can; you won't regret it.
  • We're starting to see Tim Horton's in the US, specifically Ohio.

    I was first introduced to Tim Horton's in Vancouver BC a few years back while I was working a project up there. Good Coffee (I'll probably get flamed by Coffee Shop denizens for this). From my observation, Tim Horton's, and Donut shops in general, are not as common in BC as I'm hearing about here.

    Oh, by the way, Wendy's International (a US company) "merged" with Tim Horton's last year. Wendy's being much the larger of the two makes Tim Horton's an American Donut Shop as much as anything.

    I'm just pointing this out to tweak the Canadians. American companies operating in Canada do silly things like integrating a maple leaf (McDonald's and Pizza Hut are examples) into their signs in an attempt to calm Canadian fears about having their commerce dominated by American (US) business.

    It's funny. Mexicans who I've known will point out that they are, in fact, Americans, Mexico being in North America. Canadians I've known have no problem whatsoever with the identification of people from the US being 'Americans'.

  • Curious, I did a Google search [google.com] on "polystrate" as one unsolved problem for evolution. The explanations that I saw (e.g. from talkorigins) were either that they weren't trees (after laughing for a bit, I wondered how they dealt with, e.g. polystrate spiral shells), or that the fossil replaced a tree (which doesn't actually help the argument, if you think about it), or that the tree was transported there (and they quote from last-century geologists on the topic, because all recent geological investigation of polystrate trees and fossil forests have just made the case worse for evolution).

    I summarise:
    • Real polystrate tree fossils (that cross many rock strata) exist
    • Even the fossils that are replacements of actual trees (double fossils if you like) don't help evolution since the tree has to have been buried before the first replacement anyway
    • Invoking fossil forests makes the case worse, since they are invariably transported
    • Even trees labelled "not transported", apparently ad hoc, have matching ring patterns in different layers, implying that they grew together contemporaneously and were subsequently layered
    • The few references to Mount Saint Helens make the case still worse by exposing even worse problems for evolution (e.g. 8m/26ft of sedimentary rock laid down in minutes and eroded into a grand-canyon lookalike in hours) while not actually reducing the polystrate tree difficulty at all
    Yet a theory which relies on evidence like this must be taught in most schools? Hmmm.

    I have to conclude that the Ig Nobel Prize judges either didn't think, or indulged in polystrate thinking to avoid the reality.
  • The Ig Nobel winner for Sociology might sound a little bit petty and, well, meaningless, but have you ever taken a sociology course? You'll have access to volumes upon volumes (real books now, not on-line) of information that you could nominate for this award. I remember for my sociology class, I "researched" group dynamics at a music store. Basically, I made a lot of gross generalizations in my paper, stated the patently obvious, and provided some citations to other people who had done the same exact thing. And, to top it all off, I didn't come to any significant conclusion.

    The paper received an A+.
  • i have. and i agree - the flamethrower things are better than shooting a carjacker outright..blinding or harming a person with a non lethal weapon is better than a clean kill.
  • heh. in practical terms the G forces involved would probably make this impractical at best.
  • I imagine that the unproven 15% includes the bits about resurrecting the dead and playing fast and loose with the laws of conservation...

"Morality is one thing. Ratings are everything." - A Network 23 executive on "Max Headroom"

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