Monday, 14 December 2009

Ig Nobel Prize Winners - A Guest Post by Vronsky

Following all the kerfuffle about global warming and the leaked Hadley Centre emails, I was trawling the web looking at the credentials of the scientists who disagreed with the warming hypothesis. There's a demographic breakdown here, and towards the end (get yourself a coffee - there's 128 pages) the writer speculates as to the motives of scientists who contest global warming when they really ought to know better - or at least know that they don't know. And he mentioned the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Don't know about you, but I had to look that up. It's this:

The unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than actuality.

So being dull can carry a twofold disadvantage - not only are you dimmer than average, but you compound this by thinking that you're smarter than average. Does the type of person sound familiar?

Then I found that the eponymous Dunning and Kruger had won an Ig Nobel prize for this, defined as the prize for research which first makes you laugh, then makes you think. Here are some other laureates - and it's all true!

1992: Art
Presented jointly to Jim Knowlton, modern Renaissance man, for his classic anatomy poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom" and to the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts for encouraging Mr. Knowlton to extend his work in the form of a pop-up book.

1999: Managed Health Care
Presented to George Blonsky and Charlotte Blonsky of New York City and San Jose, California, for inventing a device (U.S. Patent 3,216,423) to aid women in giving birth: the woman is strapped onto a circular table, and the table is then rotated at high speed.

2003: Physics
Presented to Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowle, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces".

I didn't believe that, but you can download the paper on-line. Here's a line from the abstract:

An experiment was conducted using eight experienced shearers as participants to measure the force exerted by a shearer when dragging a sheep. Yeah, I read that twice too.

2004: Medicine
Presented jointly to Steven Stack of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and James Gundlach of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, for their published report "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide".

2006: Medicine
Francis M. Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, for his medical case report "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, for their subsequent medical case report also titled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage".

Suppose that one depends on whether or not the patient is expecting it.

2007: Peace (topical!)
The United States Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for suggesting the research and development of a "gay bomb," which would cause enemy troops to become sexually attracted to each other.

That should sort out those Taleban blighters.

2009: Physics
Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel E Lieberman of Harvard University and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, all in the US, for analytically determining why pregnant women do not tip over.



Anonymous said...

Vous extractez le pis-pis?

subrosa said...

Mais non.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

May we?

scunnert said...


Killer said...

It's a pretting bad trophy...

Anonymous said...

Caricacora canaracac


subrosa said...

Where's Vronsky?

Vronsky said...

Where's Vronsky?

Babysitting most of this week. catch up later!

subrosa said...

Ah Vronsky, a very worthwhile and delightful occupation. :)

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