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Instructions & Executions
Guillotines and Ecology, Pain, Possibly, Naming Buggy Parts...
JULY|AUGUST 2009 (volume 15, number 4) $6.50 US|$9.50 CAN
The journal of record for inflated research and personalities Annals of © 2009 Annals of Improbable Research ISSN 1079-5146 print / 1935-6862 online
AIR, P.O. Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238, USA “Improbable Research” and “Ig” and the tumbled thinker logo are all reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. FAX: 617-661-0927 www.improbable.com email@example.com EDITORIAL: firstname.lastname@example.org The journal of record for inﬂated research and personalities
Commutative Editor Stanley Eigen Northeastern U. Associative Editor Mark Dionne Dissociative Editor Rose Fox Psychology Editor Robin Abrahams Contributing Editors Otto Didact, Stephen Drew, Ernest Ersatz, Emil Filterbag, Karen Hopkin, Alice Kaswell, Nick Kim, Katherine Lee, Bissel Mango, Randall Monroe, Steve Nadis, Nan Swift, Tenzing Terwilliger, Marina Tsipis, Bertha Vanatian VP, Human Resources Robin Abrahams Research Researchers Kristine Danowski, Martin Gardiner, Tom Gill, Mary Kroner, Wendy Mattson, Katherine Meusey, Srinivasan Rajagopalan, Tom Roberts, Tom Ulrich Design and Art Geri Sullivan PROmote Communications Lois Malone Rich & Famous Graphics Circulation Director Katherine Meusey Circulation (Counter-clockwise) James Mahoney Webmaster Julia Lunetta General Factotum (web) Jesse Eppers Technical Eminence Grise Dave Feldman Art Director emerita Peaco Todd Webmaster emerita Amy Gorin
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“When all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”—Sherlock Holmes “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”—Richard Feynman
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2 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 15, no. 4
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The features marked with a star (*) are based entirely on material taken straight from standard research (and other Official and Therefore Always Correct) literature. Many of the other articles are genuine, too, but we don’t know which ones.
Special Section: Instructions & Executions
6 9 12 The Ancient and Modern Ecology of Execution*— Simcha Lev-Yadun Harold Hillman: Possible Pain*—Stephen Drew Snippets of Instruction*—Ernest Ersatz ®
Improbable Research Reviews*
4 5 20 Improbable Research Review*—Dirk Manley Improbable Medical Review*—Bertha Vanatian May We Recommend*—Stephen Drew
Bissell Mango 24
On the Front Cover
A horizontal tabular boiler pictured in a 1902 book on how to tend it and other kinds of boilers. See page 16 (of this magazine) for details.
22 Soft Is Hard*—Alice Shirrell Kaswell and Boys Will Be Boys*—Katherine Lee
News & Notes
IFC 2 12 17 18 19 21 27 28 32 31 IBC HMO-NO News: Green Tea Diet! AIR Vents (letters from our readers) AIR Books Editorial Board XKCD: “Outreach”—Randall Munroe 2009 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Poster Puzzling Solutions—Emil Filterbag Medical End Notes*—Caroline Richmond Teachers’ Guide CARTOON: “Awkward Silence”—Nick Kim Back Issues Unclassified Ads
On the Back Cover
A photograph of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910), well-known in his day by the professional pseudonym “Nadar.” He is thought to be the first person to take photographs from a balloon aloft. This image is from the Smithsonian Institution’s collection.
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Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 15, no. 4 | 1
Mortenson Acloque’s brief letter (“AIR Vents. Having listened to bits of what the current official tour guides say. Kinsey et al (1948). That’s no cannon shell. though not as delightfully brief as G. MD New York City.improbable. UK NOTE: The opinions expressed here represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: The image here shows a footnote extracted from B. C. Seoul.” gave me the option to “auto-explode.” 15:1) about the article “The Tasting of the Shrew” (AIR 14:5). and having done the work for several summers when I was younger. be much better at the job than I was and than most Thank you for publishing my brief letter (“AIR Vents. Jun Paik.C. Peru Schizophrenics as Of Shrews. no. NY Object is Not Prussian Olivia Rausch is a moron. Patricia Wallace London. Burg’s report. Doris Morra. 24. The abstract reads: “Analyzed weekly masturbation and nocturnal emission frequency by age. in some cases. Ph.” In doing this database search. upon displaying the subject header “nocturnal emission. which. Willy Renfro Adams. which states: The probability that there exists a probability of zero is zero. please be advised that said law is a corollary of Lamport’s Prequel to Murphy’s Law. I know superior talent when I see it. that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Zeroing in on the Problem In reference to your recent issue on Murphy’s Law (which has not yet appeared).D. Cajamarca.R. pp. Ph. 15. a surprisingly large percentage would thrive if they were given work that so well suits—and celebrates—their strengths. The photo in her article (“Museum Treasures for Children. I feel sure that the new tours would be both more entertaining and no less inaccurate. using data from studies by P. and having over many years observed and interacted with many of the native London schizophrenics.AIR Vents Exhalations from our readers of my professional companions were.com 2 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 216-20. Maryland Schizophrenics as Tour Guides (1) I endorse your editorial call (AIR 14:7) for having the local schizophrenics serve as tour guides to major cities.] David Epstein Towson. educational level. Milton Wu Hong Kong. at Third-Hand Tour Guides (2) Having undergone the training to become a tour guide. Burg.R. I am certain that these gentlemen and ladies will. and generation (younger or older). Korea www. Dr. My letter was brief. Journal of Sex Research. Much as I enjoyed the work. California Schizophrenics as Tour Guides (3) So many people cry that we should “get the schizophrenics off the streets. Here in New York we have an adequate supply of people who are qualified to train for the job.” B. China Exciting Research The PsychInfo database yielded up this citation: “Nocturnal Emission and Masturbatory Frequency Relationships: A 19th-Century Account. 4 .” 15:2) about G. Leslie Lamport Microsoft Research Mountain View. Van Buskirk (unpublished manuscript) and A. Mortenson Acloque’s. on the whole.D. While many schizophrenics are ill-equipped to function on their own. vol.” Your editorial explains why. I was using the Ovid search interface.” AIR 14:7) does not show a “disused late-nineteenth century Prussian cannon shell” as she claims. It’s a piece of whale anatomy. and prideful though I am of myself and of my erstwhile colleagues. 1988.
South Africa Superhero-related Dangers. this may. varied. Pointedly Oh. However. Elektricität.improbable. As some of you may know. I had at the time. Akustik. After stating the obvious—I was going to fly—she asked me. but that I. little knowledge of the basics of aerodynamics and was pursuing this course of action having been inspired by Batman (not Spiderman or Superman as in the original report).com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. though my heavy-handed “corrections. Thank you for publishing my nowsadly-lengthy series of letters (most recently in AIR Vents 15:3) and reproducing our new photographic treasure. as I do now. 3. 15. (4th edition. As I stood on the edge of the roof ready to imitate “flight” my mother walked up to the house from work and asked me what I was doing. sadly. to “get down from the roof this instant. as he is beneath the black.” have obliterated the image of him. they do not show Mel. I apologize for taking up your time and so many pages of your letters column. Optik. Uebungsbuch für den Experimentirkasten. and to emulate this behavior I wore a white bath towel wrapped around my neck (quite tightly I remember). 2007. Lheal Chormnast TRPNOF Archives Moldavia www. no. characterize it simply as both purposeful and self-evident. as an eerie parallel to the original report. 4 | 3 . I am a book collector) of the 1895 book 400 Versuche aus dem Gebiete der Mechanik. no. My assistant Gruber has demonstrated to my that Mel was in the photograph. At the approximate age of 7–10 years old.” by Davies et al. Shawn Thieb Hogekirk. editors. despite the event. no. low-level superheroics. NY Maybe Mel. I am sure there are good historical reasons why the hand does not appear in that one copy of the book. Batman also wears a cape. it was the best I could do! In addition. no. Sadly. in more explicit terms. I hope somebody will enlighten me. Wärme. or may not qualify as a “costume” as stated with the five cases in the original report. Martin Schiavenato PhD.. but one that does not have the hand sticking out of the slot in the box on the table. Selbstverlag). the Batman has no special superpowers of any type (other than extreme wealth) and specific to his flying prowess I could at the time. black ink. but give me a break. Archives of Disease in Childhood. but my knowledge of elementary physics experiments is too limited to tell me what that reason could be. no. LFHCfS Rochester. by presenting my personal case study. The indicator markings I have added here show where Mel is located in the image. My third copy contains a nearly identical drawing. 92.” AIR 15:3) a report on “Superhero-related Injuries in Paediatrics: A Case Series. this was not to be the end of my pursuit of other. Dresden. I climbed to the roof of our two-storied house with the purpose of achieving self-propelled flight. This drawing is in two of three copies I own (yes. I too had made no plans for landing strategies. as I do now. vol. To be in full disclosure. Meiser and Mertig.” Soon thereafter I got a spanking which ended all subsequent efforts in self-propelled flight. Related I would like to add to the body of literature presented in “LowLevel Superheroics” (“Icky Cutesy Research Review.Overhanded Imaging Perhaps one of your readers can solve this mystery.
Van Britsom. Pennsylvania. no. no. (Thanks to Wendy Cooper for bringing this to our attention. 307–21. 2004.K. M. Vanessa Palmer. P. L. and at the University of Exeter. Before the writer could determine their structural details they were lost.improbable. They report: The findings indicate that. but is believed that they were adult male Hepaticola. 6.L. D. J. Please enclose the full citation (no abbreviations!) and. Improbable Research staff Gender-Sussing of Kitty “Identification of Gender In Domestic-Cat Faces With and Without Training: Perceptual Learning of a Natural Categorization Task.” Paul C. 4 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. U.” J. Weidman. M. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 12. no. Journal of Parasitology. and R. K. pp. Laubenstein. Johnston. Washington. experiments. Slater. 3. 1. 1925. 15. Reyss. and conclusions compiled by Dirk Manley.Improbable Research Review Improbable theories. Vasselli.com . G. vol. Detail from the Quinn/Palmer/Slater study “Identification of Gender In Domestic-Cat Faces With and Without Training: Perceptual Learning of a Natural Categorization Task. if possible. 749–63. human observers can identify the gender of cat faces at an above-chance level. a copy of the paper. and Alan M.” F. 19–25. 1999. vol. Gasparro. We welcome your suggestions for this and other columns.) The author relates the difficulty of this research: This second rat died in six months and two filariform worms were found in its liver but no ova. 4 www. pp.D. Quinn. The Case of the Missing Worms “Hepaticoliasis: a Frequent and Sometimes Fatal Verminous Infestation of the Livers of Rats and Other Rodents. no. Komura. Schillebeeckx. Hult. (Thanks to Morton Fisk for bringing this to our attention.” Spoonful o’ Neutrons “Measurements of 60Co in Spoons Activated by Neutrons During the JCO Criticality Accident at Tokai-mura in 1999. H. pp.) The authors are at Washington Jefferson College. Tagziria. being eaten by cockroaches during a short absence from the laboratory room. Holmes. Neumaier. Arnold. 73. Perception. P.N. S. 28. with appropriate training. vol.
no. techniques. and very frequent (three or more times per week). June 1994. Riggers. who shared the 1997 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize for demonstrating that listening to elevator Muzak can help prevent the common cold. Group 2 petted a stuffed dog.” C. no. vol. Each participant was exposed to one of the three conditions for 18 min. Saliva samples were collected and assayed for salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA). The authors explain that: 112 college students reported the frequency of their sexual encounters and were divided into four categories: none. while Group 3 simply sat comfortably on a couch.” www. 1087–91. 94. S. 55 college students were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or one of two control groups. Psychological Reports. Charnetski and F.” C. no. part 1. and the Immune System “Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). and F.Improbable Medical Review Improbable diagnoses. 95. 4 | 5 .J. Detail from the Charnetski/Riggers/Brennan study “Effect of Petting a Dog on Immune System Function. Brennan. Individuals in the frequent group showed significantly higher levels of IgA than the other three groups. part 2. Group 1 petted a live dog. explain here that: The present study assessed the effect of petting a dog on secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels. and research compiled by Bertha Vanatian. pp. Petting Humans. which were comparable. and the Immune System “Effect of Petting a Dog on Immune System Function. Pre. 839–44. Psychological Reports.X. 3. Participants also described their overall sexual satisfaction. Brennan.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 3.J.X.improbable. Charnetski. vol. frequent (one to two times per week). pp. Improbable Research staff Petting Pets. December 2004.and posttreatment saliva samples yielded a significant increase in IgA for Group 1 only. infrequent (less than once a week). Charnetski and Brennan. 15.
Ancient Arab swords. Improbable Research staff The global energy crisis and other global changes have been studied from endless points of view. The rocky. Israel. Faculty of Science and Science Education University of Haifa. 1880. Photo: Laboratory for Atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. 15. and also global ecology. the continent most prominently visible in this photograph. Smith. from the point of view of the changing methods of executions. living in the barren hill country of Judea and Samaria. 1884. Sir Richard Francis Burton. London.com 6 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. Here. and other designs less so. London. Chatto and Windus. Arabs in the nearby sandy deserts of Saudi Arabia could not stone condemned people to death with sand particles. and instead used to decapitate them with a sword. I wish to discuss these matters. 4 . www.The Ancient and Modern Ecology of Execution by Simcha Lev-Yadun Department of Science Education—Biology. almost tree-less environment explains the use of this execution method. Tivon. Philip Berger Benny. with instructive illustrations and historical documentation selected by Alice Shirrell Kaswell. Elder and Company.improbable. Drawing: The Book of the Sword. Note that some designs were more commonly used for decapitation. no. a point of view that has never been studied before. The innovation of stoning is described on page 87 of The Criminal Code of the Jews. The earth has been the scene and source of inspiration for innovative adaptations in the way humans execute each other. Ancient Hebrews and Arab Innovations The ancient Hebrews. is not mentioned in the text of this study. executed people by stoning. Oranim. South America.
1893. The Turks. in its search for light. continued > www. a vivid practice known as “Chazuk. he was tied on top of a young palm or a bamboo. physics also served the purpose. Malcolm MacColl. which comes free of charge. where instead of putting the bound condemned person on top of a spear.Ancient Turkish and Asian Tropical Innovations In the Near East.” A botanical parallel was in use in tropical regions of Asia.improbable. Such good plant growth was possible in the tropics. Details shown here are from Two Happy Years in Ceylon. Be sure to read footnote 1 in this image. used to execute by impaling people on a metal spear. but not in the much more arid Near East. At least one form of impalement by stake is thought to be a Turkish innovation. but when impossible. for instance. Details here are from The Eastern Question: Its Facts and Fallacies. 4 | 7 . biology was used.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. was also used for traditional execution. Green and Co. Longmans. gravity. Impalement by bamboo growth originated in regions of Asia that could take advantage of the rapid growth of certain varieties of the bamboo plant. The plant shoot. 1877. Chatto and Windus. Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming. no. London. 15.. grew quickly (a very relative term for the impaled one) through the condemned person. London. We see that when it was possible.
the ropes holding the trees were cut. and again. no. London. a new method. Being industrialized. In any case. people were executed for centuries by the auto-de-fe.S. this method of execution suited the U. Ig Nobel & Improbable Research BOOKS Get them in bookstores —or online via www. Following the forest decline in many parts of the U. Thus. They used wooden crosses repeatedly. Taking into account the large number of people executed using the guillotine during the French Revolution. many of the U. 4 www. Drawing: History of the Guillotine. and even forced the condemned people to carry the horizontal beam. who suffered from the consequences of severe deforestation. emerged: the guillotine. was invented and used.S.. The condemned person was tied to the trees (an arm and a leg to each tree). The guillotine proved to be an environmentally friendly innovation in France. John Wilson Croker. there was no waste of timber.com .improbable. Medieval European Innovations In then-wooded Medieval Europe.e. the Romans. i. Conclusion: Execution and Conservation We can therefore see that both regional ecology and environmental changes influenced the methods of execution in various countries and ecologies. following the energy crisis of the 1970s.“The end was quick.” Ancient Roman Innovations Still in the semi-arid Mediterranean. condemned people were hanged on trees. 15. The end was quick. there was no waste of timber.. the electric chair. in the 18th century. in North America. among the various measures to save energy. conserved good quality timber by the practice of crucifixion. John Murray.S. before the forests were cut down. states decided to use lethal injections. However. An alternative tree-based method that saved the trees used in execution was to bend two trees till they were close and tie them with ropes so the ropes prevented them from straightening up. 8 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol.com or at other fine and even not-so-fine e-bookstores. burnt alive on the stake. much friendlier to the environment. 1853. the continued use of auto-de-fe would probably have depleted the remaining forests of Western Europe. based on electricity produced from fossil oil or coal.improbable. This spectacular procedure was carried on till the increasing depletion of the forests was recognized. and again. North American Innovations In a different wooded ecosystem. a global trend of environmental conservation along with the exploitation of specific local resources is obvious in this colorful aspect of human culture.
4 | 9 . disgusted.improbable. Improbable Research staff There’s pleasure to be had in reading “The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods. postmortem examinations. in Guildford.” if only the pleasure of feeling the author’s possible satisfaction at having done a thorough job. and the literature on emergency medicine. Harold Hillman was Director of the Unity Laboratory of Applied Neurobiology.” This he caringly distilled into a fact-filled. www.Harold Hillman: Possible Pain by Stephen Drew. disdainful. 15. physiological studies on animals undergoing similar procedures. The Man There exist few reliable. horrified. mordantly amused. He spent years gathering whatever information he could find about what it feels like to undergo each of the most popular forms of capital punishment. firsthand reports of the pain experienced during an execution. no. Hillman drew from a wide variety of sources: “Observations on the condemned persons. Dr.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. continued > Dr. Hillman at an event in London during the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK and Ireland in 2004. and a Reader in Physiology at the University of Surrey. eight-page report that provoked reactions of many different kinds— admiring. and in some circles. Photo: Kees Moeliker.
with the possible exception of intravenous injection. Hillman and the Meaning of It All Having described in quite gory detail the nuts and bolts of each form of execution.”) Then came electrocution. is watch for signs of pain. Hillman then got to the heart of the matter: the pain. has dilated pupils. the typical physiological course of events in the executee.. Altogether. After that...”).” Harold Hillman. Hillman pointed out that “This form of execution is likely to result in the slowest form of death of any of the methods used.” This was followed by beheading.. the winner chose not to attend the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Hillman at an event in Exeter during the 2004 tour. 4 www.. There are substantial areas of ignorance. 22. Dr.. Reference “The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods. After hanging came stoning. Citing a combination of ambivalence and financial constraints. Hillman makes no wild claim to omniscience. van Andel led the team that made the first MRI images of a couple’s sexual organs while those organs were in use. vol. no. and vertebrae of the neck are tough. Dr.com .. earned Harold Hillman the 1997 Ig Nobel Peace Prize. Photo: Kees Moeliker 10 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. withdraws from the noxious stimulus. and a quick pathological examination of the remains.The Methods Dr. Hillman gave a detailed description of each method of execution: how the act is performed. moves the limbs violently. where he delighted and mystified audiences in several cities. 745-53. 15. Hillman pointed out. so that one cannot know for certain the extent of pain in respect of a particular method. which of these signs of possible pain typically can or cannot be detected during each method of execution.” What one can do. (“The condemned person is bound supine to a trolley and a trained nurse or technician cannulates the vein in the angle of the elbow. Next came hanging.. Perception.. Dr. are likely to cause pain. Hillman constructed a helpful little chart to show.” Dr.improbable. pp. helping Dr. at a glance. As he put it: “[One does not] know for how long and how severely a decapitated head feels. a person in severe pain shouts or screams. (“The condemned person is strapped to a chair in front of a pail of sulfuric acid. Dr. Dr. 1993. Its ultimate conclusion: “All of the methods for executing people. came intravenous injection. however. so that beheading does not always result from a single blow.”) And in the end. micturates. himself an Ig Nobel Prize winner. muscles. gassing. Dr. Six years later. He got specific: “In everyday life. and defaecates. Dr.. he took part in the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK and Ireland. is Pek van Andel. (“The skin.” Honor. He began with shooting (“This may be carried out [by an executioner] who fires from behind the condemned person’s occiput towards the frontal region. and Public Recognition The report. contracts the facial muscles.”) perspires. Hillman project images of his work. together with the massive research involved in producing it. the Hillman report is a helpful treasury of grisly detail augmented with medical speculation. The man in the foreground. in an airtight chamber.
improbable. www. 15. 4 | 11 . Further detail from Professor Hillman’s study: Notes about evidence examined by other researchers. no.Detail from Professor Hillman’s study: some of the observed signs that are believed to indicate pain.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol.
etc.improbable. 15. 4 www. no.Snippets of Instruction Bits of regulated wisdom from many fields compiled by Ernest Ersatz. Native Inhabitants. Camp Life at Klondike — Practical Instructions for Fortune Seekers Including a Description of the Gold Regions. Harris. Land of Wonders.C. How to Find Gold. Immense Mountains.com . Enormous Deposits of the Precious Metal. Minter Company. Containing a Full Account of the Discovery of Gold. A. Rivers and Plains. Harrisburg. 12 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 1897. Pennsylvania. Routes Traversed by Miners. Improbable Research staff How to Obtain Gold These are from the book Alaska and the Klondike Gold Fields..
Newell .How to Instruct a Jury This is from the book Sackett’s Instructions and Requests for Instructions in Jury Trials. Dayton & Newman. with a Rhetorical Notation. Callaghan and Co. New York. continued > www.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 1888. second edition revised. no. Chicago. Frederick Sackett and Martin L. Illustrating Inflection. 15. Emphasis. and a Course of Rhetorical Exercises Designed for the Use of Academies and High-Schools. 4 | 13 .improbable. Ebenezer Porter. 1842. How to and How Not to Vary Hand Gestures This is from the book The Rhetorical Reader: Consisting of Instructions for Regulating the Voice. and Modulation..
children. 15. manners. at evening parties. etc. at the table. Missouri. conduct in the street. and Rules Governing the Use of Block Signals and Interlocking Plants.How to Run Train Number 43 This is from the book Explanation of Train Rules. the hair. 1919. 14 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. no. introductions. Peterson and Brothers. lips. or at hotels. With full instructions and advice in letter writing. receiving presents. etc... in company. hands. and full suggestions in bad practices and habits easily contracted.. etc. Train Orders. teeth. incorrect words. entree to society. T. decorum in church. shopping. 4 www. Otho William Brandt.B. borrowing. Philadelphia. which no young lady should be guilty of. complexion. Pennsylvania. dress. in traveling. either at home.improbable. offences. Kansas City. at places of amusement.com . obligations to gentlemen. Special Instructions. deportment in gentlemen’s society. How to Behave This is from the book Behavior Book — A Guide and Manual for Ladies as Regards Their conversation. Tiernan-Dart Printing Co.. etc. Eliza Leslie.
Appliances. 4 | 15 . 15. 1893. Audel and Co.. Pumps. London.How to Handle Heraldry This is from the book Handbook of Heraldry with Instructions for Tracing Pedigrees and Deciphering Ancient Mss. no. Theo.. How to Tend a Boiler This is from the book Maxims and Instructions for the Boiler Room — Useful to Engineers. Steam Heating.. Relating to Steam Generators. Chatto & Windus.. N. Practical Plumbing. Rules for the Appointment of Liveries &c. fourth edition. New York. 1902.improbable. continued > www. Firemen and Mechanics. Hawkins. John E. etc. Cussans.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol.
4 www.16 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. no.improbable.com . 15.
MN Paleontology Sally Shelton. Namibia Orthopedic Surgery Glenn R. Bishop’s U. Intelligence Marilyn Vos Savant**. Johns Hopkins U. Auth. Plano. U. Cornell U. England Immunology Falk Fish. Int’l Forensic Res. of Guelph Forensic Biology & Criminalistics Mark Benecke. Daly City. CA Psychology Dan Ariely*******. Hungary Norman D. U. of Zürich Geology John C. U. UK Jerome Friedman*.. Rotterdam Engineering Dean Kamen. New York. Bowman Gray School of Med. New York. Tufts U.How to Name the Parts of a Buggy This is from the February 1905 issue of the magazine Popular Mechanics. Drexel U. U. Holden. School Chemistry Dudley Herschbach*. Brigham & Women's Hosp.. NY Psychiatry and Neurology Robert Hoffman. Bemidji. University. Medical Faculty Groningen. Rebecca German. Einstein Coll. Kimmel. Museum of Geology. U. Salkind.) Annals of Improbable Research Editorial Board Anthropology Jonathan Marks. Texas Instruments. Köln Functional Biology & Morphology Frank Fish. Pasachoff.. Pediatrics Ronald M. Lippman. Washington St. Iasi. Pharmacology Stanton G. Waconia. Medical Ethics Economics Erwin J. Sabin. U. U. Quebec Physics Len Fisher*******. Budapest. Australian Pest & Vet. Biophysics Leonard X. Stromsdorfer. Finegold. Harvard U. University Coll. Yavne. Neil Martin. Romania Science Policy Al Teich. Cutting Edge Innertainment Women's Health Andrea Dunaif. Orgenics. Close. Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam Obstetrics & Gynecology Pek van Andel*******.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. Karl Kruszelnicki*******. Harvard U. of Connecticut Marine Biology Magnus Wahlberg*******. OK Philosophy George Englebretson. MIT Sheldon Glashow*.. MIT Neurology Thomas D. PA Parasitology Wendy Cooper. 4 | 17 . Williams Coll.. New England Biolabs Molecular Pharmacology Lloyd Fricker. Ornithology Kees Moeliker*******. Middlesex U. JoAnn Manson. The Netherlands Eberhard W. Harvard U. U. U. Eric Schulman. Stanford U. Tufts U. Stephen Dahms. Harvard U. Boston U. U. NY Law William J. 15. SciWrite. Dalhousie U. Bristol U. Nutrition Brian Wansink*******. May. Genetics Michael Hengartner. NY Ronald A. West Chester U. Harvard U. MIT Margo Seltzer. Biomaterials Alan S. no. MN History of Science & Medicine Tim Healey. TX Materials Science Robert T. Computer Science Dennis Frailey. Northwestern U. Douglas Osheroff*. London Neil J. Simon Fraser U. Washington Astrochemistry Scott Sandford. Lawrence Dill*******. Library of Congress George Valas. Washington Biology Dany Adams. Stevens. Morris***. Biotechnology A. Barnsley. Ohio State U. Harvard Med. Kompanje. Turkey Swordswallowing Dan Meyer *******. Little Rock. Harvard U. MS Cardiology Thomas Michel*****. Rochester. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Earle Spamer. Erasmus MC Ernst W. Virginia David Slavsky. National Insts of Health www.O. Maloney. UK Chris McManus*******. American Philosophical Society. of Southern Denmark Molecular Biology Walter Gilbert*. (Thanks to Rose Fox for bringing it to our attention. MIT Robert M. Mann Foundation Bureaucracy Miriam Bloom. Omak. MIT A Guide to the Stars * Nobel Laureate ** world’s highest IQ *** convicted felon **** misspelled ***** sibling rivalry ****** six stars ******* Ig Nobel Winner Political Science Richard G. Alfred E. AR Library & Info Sciences Regina Reynolds. U. G. North Carolina Archaeology Angela E. Frank Wilczek*. Food Research Massimo Marcone. Neimi****. Alexandria. Litsky.improbable. Chicago Biochemistry Edwin Krebs*. Ltd. American Assn for the Advancement of Science Stochastic Processes (selected at random from amongst our subscribers) Mehmet Levend Gürses Bolu. William Lipscomb*.. Jackson. Loyola U. Jay M. Richard Wassersug*******. Mack. Med. Sydney Harry Lipkin. of Kansas Pulmonary Medicine Traian Mihaescu. Philadelphia. WA John Splettstoesser. Normal. Western Wash. Israel Infectious Diseases James Michel*****. DEKA Research Methodology Rod Levine. Duke U Louis G. NASA/Ames Astronomy Robert Kirshner. Weizmann Inst. Lisse. Richard Roberts*. Rose. of Medicine Neuroengineering Jerome Lettvin. Johnson. Swakopmund State Hospital.
improbable. 4 www.XKCD by Randall Monroe: “Outreach” xkcd. no.com . 15.com 18 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol.
improbable.edu (Delegations please register at 781.00 This year’s theme: Also featuring Risk World premiere mini-opera: “The Big Bank Opera” Risky Keynote Speaker: Benoit Mandelbrot Win-a-Date-with-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest The 24/7 Lectures Live webcast …and more Inflicted on you by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) And co-sponsored by The Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students The Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association The Harvard Computer Society …and the book The Ig Nobel Prizes And then the winners explain all… Ig Informal Lectures Saturday. SPS.00 and $31. see Harvard Box Office Open 12-6 PM most days Order online www..com Approved HCS. HRSFA October 1. October 3. Cambridge Co-sponsored by MIT Press Bookstore Free admission (but limited seating) ® www. 1:00 pm MIT. Ave. 2009 7:30 pm Sanders Theater.6757) www. Harvard University Tickets: $39.2222 For more info.444.00 and $35. 15. 4 | 19 . then TH 19th First Annual Thursday.496.boxoffice.harvard.The Ig® Nobel Prize Ceremony ements g achiev in r o n o H AUGH people L e k a m that INK. no. 2009 Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol.com Holyoke Center 617. Building 10 Room 250 77 Mass. October 1.improbable.00 Student tickets: $34.
June 2008. Portrait by Nan Swift. and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. 15. pt. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. Schwartz. getting it wrong time after time. no. but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. 20 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. at the University of Virginia. this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. p. 121. reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help.com . Journal of Cell Science. 1771. Improbable Research staff. Martin A. no.improbable. vol. the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries. (Thanks to Betsy Devine for bringing this to our attention.) The author.” Martin A. 4 www. Improbable Research staff The Importance of Stupidity “The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along.May We Recommend Items that merit a trip to the library compiled by Stephen Drew. 1. Schwartz. No doubt. No doubt. 11. stupidity author. The more comfortable we become with being stupid. explains: Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice.
Puzzling Solutions Solution to Last Month’s Puzzler by Emil Filterbag. This one is a colonoscopy brochure. as can be seen from the full image here (Figure 2). 28 — Lower Granite Master Plan” for the management of all natural and manmade resources of Lower Granite Lock and Dam. no. 4 | 21 . 2. This one is from the United States Army Corps of Engineers’s Walla Walla District’s “Design Memorandum No. Figure 2. www. as can be seen from the full image here (Figure 1). Improbable Research staff Figure 1. 1.improbable.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. 15.
June 17. Leisure and the Alcoholic. who shared an Ig Nobel Prize for his 1995 study “Pigeons’ Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso. 1. vol. Detail from the Watanabe study “Pigeons Can Discriminate ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Paintings by Children. 21–32.C. N.Soft Is Hard Further evidence why the “soft” sciences are the hardest to do well compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell and Bissell Mango. 15. Using operant conditioning procedures.. 4 www.com . jointly undertook and investigation of the leisure patterns of a select group of alcoholics. but when he is. pigeons were then reinforced for pecking at “good” paintings. 2009. 1969. To do this. (Thanks to Ewan Calloway for bringing this to our attention.) The author.improbable. [Our data shows that] the alcoholic is generally not a joiner. DOI:10... adult human observers first classified several children’s paintings as either “good” (beautiful) or “bad” (ugly). Douglas Sessoms and Sidney R. no.. The Curriculum in Recreation Administration of the University of North Carolina and the Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center (ARC) at Butner. pp. Oakley. Journal of Leisure Research.” H.” Shigeru Watanabe. no.” Alcoholics’ Preference Discovered “Recreation.1007/s10071-0090246-8.” reports: I investigated whether pigeons could be trained to discriminate between paintings that had been judged by humans as either “bad” or “good”. Improbable Research staff Pigeons/Paintings (Kids): Good/Bad—Yes/No “Pigeons Can Discriminate ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Paintings by Children. 22 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. he prefers clubs where alcoholic beverages are available. epub ahead of print. 1. Animal Cognition.
Finally. sensitization or intake escalation—the latter being a hallmark of drug addiction. report: Here we report that when rats were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between water sweetened with saccharin—an intense caloriefree sweetener—and intravenous cocaine—a highly addictive and harmful substance—the large majority of animals (94%) preferred the sweet taste of saccharin. 4 | 23 . Ahmed. 44. at best. the preference for saccharin was not surmountable by increasing doses of cocaine and was observed despite either cocaine intoxication. August 1. Appreciating Organizational Psychopaths “The Dark Side of Management Decisions: Organisational Psychopaths.” Clive Roland Boddy. no. though repressed. (2) mechanism of ‘Pseudo-moral connotation of the neurotic symptom. France. amoral is a recipe for negative consequences. Harvard University Press. The author explains that: One type of “sham shame. is discussed. 1953.. 15. ISBN 0-674-31175-2..Sweetness vs. 10. The author is at the Sorbonne.’ and (3) masochistic elaboration. Alain Berg. The Foul and the Fragrant The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination. Massachusetts. The paper suggests that having organisational psychopaths running corporations that are themselves. Secrets: the Sham Shame “The Sham Shame in the Neurotic Complaint. 2007..com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. vol. 2. 1986. pp. 7. The paper describes how these organisational psychopaths are able to present themselves as desirable employees and are easily able to obtain positions in organisations.improbable. and Serge H. cajole and manipulate their way up an organisational hierarchy in pursuit of their main aims of power. (Thanks to Martin Gardiner for bringing this to our attention. Management Decision. vol. International Journal of Sexology. In analyzing these patients. at University Bordeaux. PLoS ONE. www. phallic castration: (1) Unsolved peeping conflicts.” Magalie Lenoir. Cocaine “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. The authors. lie.” talking in company. pp. Fuschia Serre. a natural sugar. 2006. 1461–75. The preference for saccharin was not attributable to its unnatural ability to induce sweetness without calories because the same preference was also observed with sucrose. 28–30. 8. no.” Edmund Bergler. Australia. vol.) The author. wealth and status and at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. Without the inhibiting effect of a conscience they are then able to ruthlessly charm. no. at Middlesex University Business School in Perth. reports: This paper defines organisational psychopaths as being those psychopaths who exist at an incidence of about 1 percent of the general population and who work in organisations. Lauriane Cantin. it is noted that one finds three mechanisms hidden behind the more superficial.
Improbable Research staff Brassiere Specialist: Man Makes His Points "Brassiere Having Simulated Nipples. 2. patent #3976083.. reports: The article deals with a number of Internet sites claiming to specialize in providing pornography for heterosexual women.." . Indiana.. as a vehicle to examine the nascent “gaze” and visual parameters of heterosexual female sexuality. (Mr. at Simon Fraser University. 42–64. a component which is permanently attached to the external surface of the brassiere cop. The author. on Aug 24.” Findings are as follows: “Women’s porno” fuses the matter and anti-matter of men’s homo. 4 www. which obliterate the nipple Girls Will Be Girls “Women’s Porno: The Heterosexual Female Gaze in Porn Sites ‘For Women."Patent #3976083 is for: A brassiere is disclosed having cups which are provided with a nipple-like protuberance simulating the bulge of a natural nipple. pp.” 24 | Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol." U. Sexuality and Culture. The remainder of the article does a comparative textual analysis of nine pornographic Internet sites. vol.Boys Will Be Boys Research by and for adolescent males of all ages and sexes compiled by Katherine Lee..’” Terrie Schauer. no. Schmidt of Charlestown. 15. three of which label themselves “for women. The focus here is semiotic—looking at visual coding of website images rather than audience reception.and heterosexual pornography.S. The nipple-like bulge or protuberance may be a built-in component of the brassiere. by means of several linkage and attachment mechanisms. Schmidt also was granted patent # 4241737 for "Brassiere Having Simulated Nipples and Attachable-Detachable Nipple Simulators" and patent #4127128 for the identically named "Brassiere Having Simulated Nipples and Attachable-Detachable Nipple Simulators. simulated nipples for a brassiere would offer an acceptable compromise for ladies who do not wish to go without a brassiere and a welcome release from the subconscious effects of the suppression brought on by wearing brassieres of the types variously available.com . 1976. issued to Jakob E. no. in the process engendering an active. 9.improbable. heterosexual female gaze and typifying Butler notion of “insurrectionary speech. usually situated under the fabric of the cup. sexually interested. June 2005. or an individual structure which may be attached to or detached from the brassiere cup as will.
G. 6..com and elsewhere.. resistivity measurements. pp. 2008.V. Penton-Voak. and H. “AsS Melt Under Pressure: One Substance. Russia and at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in Hyogo. Physical Review Letters.145701.Desirability to Drunks “Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Ratings of Attractiveness of Facial Stimuli: Evidence of Long-Term Encoding.) The authors. Y. (Thanks to Joe Ham for bringing this to our attention. DOI:10.1093/alcalc/agn065. but only in male participants when rating female (i. 636–40. the effects of alcohol consumption on ratings of attractiveness persist for up to 24 h after consumption. Where: On the web. Three Liquids. no.” V.V.1103/PhysRevLett.com Annals of Improbable Research | July– August 2009 | vol. T. Parker. Introducing www. Brazhkin. Japan. explain: A strongly held popular belief is that alcohol increases the perceived attractiveness of members of the opposite sex. (Thanks to Jerry Ryan for bringing this to our attention.e. report: An in situ high-temperature–high-pressure study of liquid chalcogenide AsS by x-ray diffraction. and Marcus R. there are no experimental data that investigate this possibility. Despite this. who are variously at the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Troitsk Moscow region. Kondrin. CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol consumption increases ratings of attractiveness of facial stimuli. and this effect is not selective for opposite-sex faces. 43. Saitoh. vol.. Katayama.. no. Ian S.C. UK. Hattori. What: Three-minute videos about research that makes people laugh. We therefore explored the relationship between acute alcohol consumption and ratings of attractiveness of facial stimuli. 2008. in order to investigate whether any effects of alcohol persist beyond acute effects.100. at www. Lyapin. DOI:10. 4 | 25 . Attwood. 15. opposite-sex) faces. vol. no.. 100. We tested participants immediately following consumption of alcohol or placebo and one day later. AsS Melt Under Pressure Improbable TV We are pleased to introduce the Improbable Research TV series. M.” Lycia L. A. Alcohol and Alcoholism. In addition. Angela S. at the University of Bristol. Munafò.) The authors.improbable. then think.improbable. and quenching from melt is presented.. 145701.
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