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IgNobel Awards 95

how_would_i_know writes: "I've always suspected there was a coconut conspiracy... now there's proof. :-)" We might as well follow-up on our earlier story with a list of the IgNobel Winners. Stalin World! A study of glee! And of course, a true breakthrough, the solution to the shower curtain mystery.
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IgNobel Awards

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  • Funny, in 4th grade I remember having a science project that set out to solve the problem of "clinging shower curtains". The winner used velcro if memory serves correctly.

    Good to see the great mystery in life are always being pondered. Now lets try and figure out Dick Clarks true age. ;)
  • by FreezerJam ( 138643 ) <smith@ve[ ]et ['x.n' in gap]> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:07AM (#2394818)
    Ok, I bet he only patented the ROUND wheel.

    I'll patent the wheel composed of a high number
    of flat sides arranged as a regular polygon.

    That'll get him....
  • by FreezerJam ( 138643 ) <smith@ve[ ]et ['x.n' in gap]> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:12AM (#2394821)

    ...and try this address for winners...



    http://www.improb.com/ig/ig-2001-winners.html [improb.com]


  • by gimmie_prozac ( 525455 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:16AM (#2394824)
    All this time I've been thinking I was a freak, it turns out I'm just suffer from Rhinotillexomania. Gross activities seem so much more benign once you stick a scientific name on them. Now I just need to do something about all the crud stuck to the underside of my desk.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just goes to show you that no matter what you say to people, they're going to walk around without crash helmets! If it were Canada, there would already be legislation, perimeter fences around the coconut trees, and big wind blocks to prevent the coconuts from being blown off the trees.

    This is a preventable accident, and measures should be taken to halt these needless coconut injuries!

  • The Ig Nobel with the most cosmic impact was in Astrophysics, awarded to Michigan televangelist Jack Van Impe for discovering that black holes meet all the technical requirements for being the location of hell.

    Great so judjing by the article Bill Gates now has a mnopoly to black holes too.
  • <sarcasm>
    We must move immediately to protect our children from the perils of falling coconuts! I hereby propose a law requiring saftey fencing at least ten feet larger in diameter of any tree bearing coconuts or similar fruits. Any owner of such a tree will blah, blah, blah...
    </sarcasm>

    Ok, if he can patent the wheel, I'm going to patent the use of "<sarcasm/>" notation to prevent the /. average of 3 ACs who post responses that clearly indicate no capability to pick up on it whatsoever.
  • by dngrmouse ( 71461 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:23AM (#2394833)
    "Group glee doesn't happen alone."

    Gosh, how insightful! Never in a million years would I have known that group glee cannot happen when you're alone!
  • ... That the guy who managed to prove Patent Offices will approve a freaking patent on the wheel deserves a real prize? I mean, what a better proof could you find that (while patents are inherently a good thing) the way they're being handled of late is, well, kinda bad...

    Bleah, maybe the guy who managed that just wanted to be funny, but I find it rather chilling myself... :p
    • by mmontour ( 2208 ) <mail@mmontour.net> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:51AM (#2394855)
      I mean, what a better proof could you find that (while patents are inherently a good thing) the way they're being handled of late is, well, kinda bad..

      Does US5443036: Method of exercising a cat [delphion.com] qualify? (IIRC, this won an IgNobel in a previous year)

      Abstract:

      A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.
      • A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall

        In that case I would like to file this patent...

        A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of visible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall
  • by Nindalf ( 526257 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:43AM (#2394845)
    Stalin, while relaxing in a tropical amusement park, picking his nose, was struck by a coconut, prompting a brilliant idea! He immediately dragged his car (he couldn't get any wheel's, because they were patented) to his workshop and made a set of airproof underpants. He considered using charcoal filter's to absorb fart's, but because it would have to be changed, he instead leveraged his recent singularity research to create a small, contained black hole.

    To test them, knowing that adult's might be too polite to be honest or too dignified to participate, he gathered together a group of children. The test's were held in a shower to handle any accidents that might result from forced farting. It worked brilliantly. The children tried them in turn's, and not an unpleasant whiff escaped.

    For a final test, Stalin tried them on himself and stepped into the shower and strained with all his strength. Unfortunately, his mighty blast destabilized the black hole, causing him and the shower curtain to be sucked into it. At first thinking it all part of the fun, the children were overjoyed at the spectacle.

    He was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize posthumously, though this is likely no consolation as he is presumed to live in an eternal hell of contained fart's.

    (I swear it sounded like a good idea when I started writing...)
    • I left out the part about how, because due to time dilation, he will not be truly dead for several million years at least, the usual inheritance tax was not levied on his estate.
    • ... adult's might be too polite to be honest or too dignified to participate, ...

      The test's were held in a shower to handle any accidents that might result from forced farting. It worked brilliantly. The children tried them in turn's, and not an unpleasant whiff escaped.


      Aww, look at this post. You have completely butchered the use of the apostrophe. You forgot the poor englishman who runs the Apostrophe Protection Society. He got the literature award and would be horrified by your post. Is that a coincidence? Hmmm...

      Where's GrammarNazi when you need him?

      BTW, I actually attended the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and it was hilarious. I would highly recommend anyone in the Cambridge/Boston area attend next year if at all possible.

      • BTW, I actually attended the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and it was hilarious. I would highly recommend anyone in the Cambridge/Boston area attend next year if at all possible.
        Not being in the area, I watched the live webcast. There were definitely some excellent parts. I think the webcast left a lot to be desired, but what can I expect for free? I'm sure actually being there is 10 times better.

    • He was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize posthumously
      Sounds like he would have rated a Darwin [darwinawards.com] as well.
  • There's a simple answer to the shower problem that doesn't need computer modeled renderings to comprehend. Showers use hot water. The water that is close to the shower head is hotter than the water just before it hits the shower floor (go ahead, try it, I'll wait!) So that means the hot water gives the air some of its heat. Now you have some hot air in one half of the bathroom. That air will rise and go over the shower curtain. That will push the cold air down, and into your shower from below, pushing the curtain in at you! I can't believe scientists didn't think of this.
  • "We're dealing with mental midgets here" - Clarence Tabar

    Spiritual Remains
  • by Autonomous Crowhard ( 205058 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @03:15AM (#2394869)
    Oh hell... At least it was prior thought. I figured this out ages ago (1981-ish). and I even came up with a better solution: redirect the shower head slightly towards the curtain. The water pressure overcomes the other forces.

    OK, where the hell is my grant???

    • Well, first of all as far as I could see he didn't patent it but was merely studying it...

      But also, if we used your suggestion then we would get water all over the floor. The whole point of the shower curtain is to keep water from getting on the floor. Moisture hurts the furniture and perhaps the floor. And wettness increases the your risk of falling when you get out.

      What I do is use a blow drier to negate the inward forces. With my method there is far less risk of getting the floor wet but the noise may bother some people.

      • by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @04:52AM (#2394938) Journal
        What I do is Duct Tape the shower curtain sealed all around the floor, walls, and yes... even the ceiling.

        In addition to keeping the shower curtain where it belongs, this also forces me to take quick showers, because of CO2 poisoning if I'm in there for more than 7 minutes.

        I've thus, killed 2 birds with one stone (or roll of duct tape). Extra benefits are mastery of the 6 1/2 minute shower and being able to shave afterwards while still dizzy.

        • I know you're joking - but just in case anyone seriously tries that after reading it:

          It's a lot easier just to stick weights to the bottom of your shower curtain. Here (Ireland) the more expensive shower curtains have folded over hems at the bottom with small weights sewn in. Problem solved - weights are heavy enough to pull curtain flat. You just need to have a firmly attached curtain rail, since the curtain is obviously significantly heavier with weights in.
      • What I do is use a blow drier to negate the inward forces.
        Why not just install those plexiglass sliding doors in your shower? That's what mine has and they never suck inward...at least not visibly.

      • Uh... You're supposed to put the base of the curtain inside the tub.

        If you're in a standup shower, direct it so that the curtain gets hit when it blows it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    i still say nothing beats a nice large anvil when hitting people
  • The shameful misuse [angryflower.com] of the apostrophe is being fought [angryflower.com] by others [angryflower.com] as well.

    Bob must be ... um ... more irate!

  • otherwise it redirects to a 404 page.
  • I'm just glad the man who put the Crazy in Crazy religious right and his wife Rexella (King of all monsters) finally won recognition for all their hard work
  • bleh, rejected (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Trracer ( 210292 )
    2001-10-05 12:35:56 Ig Nobel prize 2001 (articles,humor) (rejected)
    Now give me credit, damnit!
  • Peter Barss of McGill University earned the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for pointing out that the real thing can pack a metric tonne of force when it drops from a 35-metre palm tree.

    He had an astronomer relative calculate the force after seeing victims arrive at the hospital where he worked in Papua New Guinea.


    How exactly do you calculate something like this? I'm one of those geeks who remember just enough physics to be confused. It seems to me that the force is dependent on the mass of the coconut and its acelleration, which is determined by the rigidity of what is being hit (e.g. a steel plate vs. a foam mat).

    It also seems to me that as devestating as a coconut impact might be, it would not be as reliably deadly as carefully placing over two thousand pounds on somebody's head.
    • Pretty simple, actually. Figure the mass of a coconut, height of the tree, and you can solve for the velocity of the coconut at impact, say five feet off the ground. I think for this one you'd ignore air resistance, but that's possible. You then know the impulse. Elasticity of the human heada is I'm sure well-known by know, so you can find out how the force would be spread out over time to produce the needed impulse. Heck, you might even be able to do this one on the back of an envelope.

      Certainly a coconut is less reliable, but I don't recall anyone suggesting they use this research for assassination.

    • The real question is, how many swallows does it take to carry one?
    • Let's assume the coconut weighs 1kg.

      And our unfortunate victim's head is 1.5m off the ground (thus making the distance the coconut falls 33.5m.

      After having falling 33.5m, the coconut will be moving at sqrt(2*9.8*33.5), or 25.6 m/s.

      If the person's head stops the coconut instantly, the deceleration will be infinite, meaning infinite force. Let's hope this is the case, because our hapless victim will likely die too quickly to feel the pain.

      Sadly, the world does not work this way, so let's assume it takes 1/2 cm for the coconut to fully decelerate after hitting his/her head. (It's a soft head.)

      Using the equation used above, v^2 = v0^2 + 2a(x - x0), we know that the acceleration will be 656.6m/s/s.

      With a 1 kg coconut, that means 656.6 newtons of force into your head. And that's assuming you have a truly soft head.
  • If you live in the area, you can get there this afternoon.

    The IG INFORMAL LECTURES will beheld at MIT room 26-100 on Saturday, October 6, 1 pm.

    A half-afternoon of improbably funny, informative, brief (10-15 minutes each), high-spirited public lectures:

    • David Jones (Nature magazine's "Daedalus") will delight and confound everyone and everything.
    • The 2001 Ig Nobel Prize winners in the fields of Biology, Medicine, Public Health, Economics, and Peace will attempt to explain why they've done what they've done.
    This free event is organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore.


  • Enough with the "shower curtain" stories, Michael. You yourself originally posted the same story back in July [slashdot.org]. Out of the hundreds of submissions for stories given to Slashdot, you picked this one? Come on..

    Cheers,

  • by krugdm ( 322700 )
    So now I wonder if I can qualify for benefits under the American Disabilities Act if I claim that I'm suffering from Rhinotillexomania?
  • From the Australian government patent site Searching patent information [ipaustralia.gov.au] page:

    "Don't reinvent the wheel. Searching worldwide patent information can help you avoid wasting time and money duplicating work done elsewhere."
  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @01:02PM (#2395529)
    I'll patent fire!

    Claim 1: A process for the production of heat by the chemical combination of oxygen with solid, liquid, or gaseous substances.

    Claim 2: The reduction in volume or weight of waste material by chemical combination with oxygen.

    • I'll patent fire!

      Damn! I was about to post that.

      I was going to make Claim 1 (heat), I didn't think of Claim 2 (reduction of waste material), but I can still patent this claim:

      Claim 3: A process for the production of visible radiation via the oxidation of a suitable substrate. The vital feature being that said substrate enters the process in a favorable energy state and exits in a depleted energy state.
      Additionally this process has the advantagous properties of being continous and self sustaining as long as both reactants (oxygen and substrate) are present.
  • Is available here [balticsww.com]. The guy who built the place has one *seriously* twisted sense of humor.... my hat goes off to him!

  • People seem to be dismissing the chimney effect of a shower by showing that the curtain still pulls in when you use cold water instead of hot water. While the temperature of the water certainly can play a part, there is another thing about the water that is important:

    Water is wet. Really. You can go check if you want.

    Now the funny thing about all this wet stuff all over the inside of the shower is that water vapor (H2O) is lighter than air (N2, O2, etc.). Yes, H2O (molecular weight of 2*1+16=18) is about 36% lighter than N2, O2 (molecular weight of 2*14=28, 2*16=32 etc.) This fact is well known by pilots, who have to deal with less lift when flying over large bodies of water and such. I, for one, dismiss the "tornado" theory based on the fact that the shower curtain still pulls in when the shower is hitting my head.

  • I've been wondering about it ever since it was posted... I've done some tests in my shower, and I'm not so sure that what he says is true. Or at least it's not entirely responsible.

    I tried the cold shower thing, and the curtain only moved inwards slightly. Not nearly as much as with a hot shower.

    And after the water was turned off, the curtains were STILL pulled inwards. As soon as I opened the side a little (to let the air mix) they immediately stopped pulling inwards (hence it would appear to be a temperature difference, not a mysterious mini cyclone effect)

    Anyone else tried it?
  • I believe that lead the Scorpions to update their song [the-scorpions.com] to "Rock You Like My Mother-in-Law's Virtual Shower Simulator"
  • I though the IgNobels were supposed to be about outright silly research. Maybe it's just me, but what's so silly about the coconut thing? I never thought about it much because I live in Baltimore, where we don't have a lot of coconut palms, but yeah, if the damned trees run to 35 meters in height, then that's roughly a coconut dropping off a ten-story building. I'd be damned surprized if that didn't injure anybody who happened to be standing below. If he's right that it's 2.5% of the trauma cases he sees, that's not entirely trivial (just for comparison, does anybody know what percentage of trauma admissions are for injuries from lightning?)

    Oh, and if you visit New Guinea and there's a storm -- don't take shelter beneath a palm tree.

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