The Uncertainty Machine

August 22nd, 2017

NIST has an uncertainty machine. This theme of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony is UNCERTAINTY.

Make of these two facts what you will.

Does the uncertainty machine have a manual. Yes, it does.

(Thanks to Arno Laesecke for bringing the machine to our attention.)

Cover image orientation in celebrity cookbooks (new study)

August 21st, 2017

If you a reader, collector, participant, or are in any other way connected to, or interested in Celebrity Chefs’ Cookbooks you may have found yourself wondering whether the chefs pictured on the book covers predominantly tend to present their right cheek to the camera or their left cheek?

In that case, thanks to Dr Annukka Lindell of the Department of Psychology and Counselling, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, you now have information at hand to assist your research.

“Celebrity cookbook covers (N = 493) were sourced online; identity, portrait orientation, photo type, and sex were coded. For celebrity cookbooks, left cheek covers (39.6%) were more frequent than right cheek (31.6%) or midline covers (28.8%); sex did not predict pose orientation.”

See: Celebrity chefs put their left cheek forward: Cover image orientation in celebrity cookbooks in the current issue of Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, Vol 25, 2017, issue 5.

* Note: “Only cookbooks available in hardback or paperback were sampled. Self-published eBooks were excluded: a chef without the media attention and publicity needed to garner a publication deal is, by definition, not a celebrity chef.”




Shocking rice pudding technique (report)

August 17th, 2017

“Currently, consumers’ concerns and consciousness about safety and nutritiousness of food consumptions are increasing. Fresh and fresh-like products have become more attractive in the market than the same kind of products produced by heat process.”

But heating isn’t the only method to preserve, say, rice pudding – you could pulse 33,000 volts though it instead. A joint US / Turkey / Thai investigation in 2008 did just that – with promising results. The team developed their own rice-pudding recipe (see diagram) and then exposed it to Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) treatment – the results of which showed that the pudding’s shelf life could be considerably extended whilst maintaining its fresh-like appearance.



• The diagram above is a pie chart of a rice pudding.

• The research project was funded by the U.S. Army Natick RD&E Center.

Ig Nobel ceremony on September 14 ( One month from today!)

August 14th, 2017

The 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony will happen on Thursday evening, September 14.

A few tickets (most of them in the back rows of the balcony) are still available.

The Harvard Box Office handles all ticket sales. The physical ticket office [now in a temporary location in Farkas Hall, 10 Holyoke Street, Cambridge] is open some (but not all!) days from noon to 6 pm. Telephone (+1) 617-496-2222.
The web site is open 24 hours, every day.

Tickets: $75 / $65 / $55 / $35
Student tickets: $70 / $60 / $50 / $30
Ig Glorious tickets: $150. We fund the ceremony (theater rental, and half a zillion other expenses) mainly through ticket revenues. We are offering a few special “Ig Glorious” tickets, for persons who want to be specially supportive. Ig Glorious tickets come with special perks: Excellent seats; A vintage copy of the Annals of Improbable Research, signed by an emissary; Their photo taken at the Ig Nobel lectern on stage (before or after the ceremony, at the discretion of the Stage Manager); Access to our Ig Glorious Liaison, a staff member assigned to the “Ig Glorious” group for the entirety of the event; And a hearty handshake!

WHERE: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University
WHEN: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017, 6:00 pm.
Ceremony details.

Shocking Mushrooms Technique (report)

August 14th, 2017

“The SPLG [pictured above] consists of four parts: a controller, connection cable, a high voltage generator, and a wheel electrode. The system is powered by rechargeable AA sized batteries. Lightening [sic] is generated by an epoch-making device which can be disassembled and used elsewhere.”

The epoch-making lightning dispenser was developed by Ferzana Islam and Shoji Ohga at the Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, Japan, and is intended to give high voltage electric shocks to mushrooms – specifically Shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms.

“After applying the electric stimulator to the specific area, the numbers of mushroom were increased more than twice. Remarkable changes were also observed by weight gaining of the fruit bodies which increased 67% in the first harvest and 69% in the second harvest, and besides length was increased by 65 to 113%. [pictured below]

In their report, the team didn’t speculate about why giving the mushrooms electric shocks might make them grow faster and bigger, other than to note :

“ As the mechanism of fruit body formation is not still fully understood, it needs further more research work.”

See: The Response of Fruit Body Formation on Tricholoma matsutake In Situ Condition by Applying Electric Pulse Stimulator in ISRN Agronomy, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 462724.

Coming Soon: The effects of high voltage electric shocks on rice pudding.