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Beards and Face-Punching: 2021 Ig Informal Lectures

September 16th, 2021

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, then THINK.

In the Ig Informal Lectures, some days after the ceremony, the new Ig Nobel Prize winners attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it. We are releasing these lectures one at a time.

The 2021 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway, and David Carrier, for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.

REFERENCE: “Impact Protection Potential of Mammalian Hair: Testing the Pugilism Hypothesis for the Evolution of Human Facial Hair,” Ethan A. Beseris, Steven E. Naleway, David R. Carrier, Integrative Organismal Biology, vol. 2, no. 1, 2020, obaa005.

A new Ig Nobel Prizes book, in Russian

September 15th, 2021

There’s another new book about the Ig Nobel Prizes. This one’s by Yana Khlyustova, in Russian.

Celebrating the Medical Influence of Ig Winner Modi

September 14th, 2021

The continuing influence of last year’s Ig Nobel Medical Education Prize winner Narendra Modi is celebrated in a report, today, in the New York Times. The report begins: “As India’s Lethal Covid Wave Neared, Politics Overrode Science —The country’s top science agency tailored its findings to fit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s optimistic narrative despite a looming crisis, researchers say.”

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for medical education was awarded to Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.

Why Do Hockey Players Score More than Soccer Players?

September 14th, 2021

Julien Blondeau, who researches thermodynamics and fluid dynamics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, writes us about his most unusual research project:

I can now perfectly explain why, for instance, field hockey players score more than football players, although the fields have approximately the same size, the number of players is exactly the same, the goals are smaller and the games are shorter: it is because the ball moves faster. It sounds trivial, and that’s what make people laugh.

My son plays field hockey, while my son in law plays roller hockey. Roller hockey players obviously evolve much faster on their field. But they don’t score so much more than field hockey players. I happened to wonder why during a boring, Saturday afternoon game. I though this must also have something to do with the duration of the game, the size of the field, the size of the goals and the speed of the puck/ball. Thinking of the well-known “Pi-theorem” in physics, I therefore decided to seek a non-dimensional number (a relevant ratio, basically) that could explain the differences between all variants of soccer and hockey in terms of number of goals scored per game. I studied 8 sports: soccer, indoor soccer, beach soccer, field hockey, roller hockey, ice hockey, indoor hockey, hockey 5s. And I succeeded! I wrote a paper about it.

That paper is: “The influence of field size, goal size and number of players on the average number of goals scored per game in variants of football and hockey: the Pi-theorem applied to team sports,” Julien Blondeau, Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, vol. 17, no. 2, 2021, pp. 145-154. It says:

In this paper, we investigate the correlation between the main physical characteristics of eight variants of football and hockey (such as field size, goal size, player velocity, ball velocity, player density, and game duration) and the resulting average numbers of goals scored per game….

[W]e propose a governing non-dimensional number based on the main physical characteristics of football and hockey that can be correlated with the average number of goals scored per game in their various forms.

The Possible Advantages of Square Cigarettes [focus-group report, 1999]

September 13th, 2021

What might be the advantages of “square” cigarettes? In 1999, the US tobacco company R.J Reynolds employed the Opinion and Marketing Research firm Delta Research to investigate.

Participants of two “Consumer Idea Generation” (CIG) focus groups from Indianapolis were paid $35 each (plus dinner) to list (amongst other things) possible advantages of “Square” cigarettes. The findings :

• Won’t roll off a table
• Easier to package
• Easier to hold
• Prettier
• More tobacco in each cigarette
• Less awkward
• Won’t roll into the ashtray
• Could be packed tighter
• Would fit into an ashtray better
• Easier to put out
• Won’t roll into sink
• Could wrap sandpaper around a square cigarette and use it to sand small places
• Could get more in the same sized package, or get the same number in a smaller package
• Square cigarettes wouldn’t bend as easily
• Could do better bar room tricks and games
• Would use less paper
• Wouldn’t have to chase down a rolling cigarette to step on it to put it outlined
• Safer, because a lit cigarette wouldn’t roll under things (furniture)
• You could build model log houses with working chimneys

See : Page 25 (27 in the original) of R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO. CONSUMER IDEATION FOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA–MARCH 30-31, 1992 (920330-920331). Acquired in 2002 by the University of California San Francisco as part of the The Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive.

Research reserach by Martin Gardiner

Improbable Research