Category Archives: science prizes

The UCL 3MT competition winner!

Every year the UCL organizes a competition dedicated to doctoral candidates who have to recap their work into a three minutes presentation to a non-specialist audience called UCL 3MT.

This year the winner is Alexandra Bridarolli, who is working on the NANORESTART Horizon 2020 project, researching nanotechnology-based solutions for the conservation of contemporary art materials. Her thesis is focused on using nanocellulose for the consolidation of cellulosic materials in particular on canvas from the 20th century.

I love her theatrical and pathetic attitude during her presentation!

What do you think about her presentation? Does is show enough enthusiasm? Is it comprehensible to everyone?

In my opinion it is an excellent example of how science can be made interesting and taken out of the closed, often self-centered academic world, and made accessible to the public without using cryptic complicated language.

So… well done Alexandra!

IG NOBEL 2015: THE WINNERS

Wearing a toilet seat on his head, David Hu, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology at Georgia Institute of Technology, walks away with his team's Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds) at the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes awards ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 17, 2015. The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl - RTS1NI9
Wearing a toilet seat on his head, David Hu, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology at Georgia Institute of Technology, walks away with his team’s Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds). Photography: REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl – RTS1NI9

Have you ever heard about the Ig Nobels? Well, if the answer is negative, you definitely must find out more. The Ig Nobels are a very peculiar form of scientific award. In fact these prizes are conferred to scientists for achievements and discoveries that first make people laugh then make them think. The Ig Nobel prize is handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at the Harvard University for silly sounding scientific discoveries that often have surprisingly practical applications.

The following are the 2015 winners, awarded of this important reward last Thursday during the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE — Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA], for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.

PHYSICS PRIZE — Patricia Yang [USA and TAIWAN], David Hu [USA and TAIWAN], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA], for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

LITERATURE PRIZE — Mark Dingemanse [THE NETHERLANDS, USA], Francisco Torreira [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, USA], and Nick J. Enfield [AUSTRALIA, THE NETHERLANDS], for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why.

MANAGEMENT PRIZE — Gennaro Bernile [ITALY, SINGAPORE, USA], Vineet Bhagwat [USA, INDIA], and P. Raghavendra Rau [UK, INDIA, FRANCE, LUXEMBOURG, GERMANY, JAPAN], for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences.

ECONOMICS PRIZE — The Bangkok Metropolitan Police [THAILAND], for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.

MEDICINE PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [JAPAN, CHINA]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [SLOVAKIA, US, UK], Peter Celec [SLOVAKIA, GERMANY], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [SLOVAKIA], for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).

MATHEMATICS PRIZE — Elisabeth Oberzaucher [AUSTRIA, GERMANY, UK] and Karl Grammer [AUSTRIA, GERMANY], for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.

BIOLOGY PRIZE — Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [CHILE], José Iriarte-Díaz [CHILE, USA], for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE PRIZE — Diallah Karim [CANADA, UK], Anthony Harnden [NEW ZEALAND, UK, US], Nigel D’Souza [BAHRAIN, BELGIUM, DUBAI, INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, US, UK], Andrew Huang [CHINA, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK], for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.

PHYSIOLOGY and ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt [USA, CANADA], for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith [USA, UK, THE NETHERLANDS], for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

You can find out last year winners here.

Watch the whole ceremony:

Ig Nobel 2014: the winners

Ignobels
Kiyoshi Mabuchi, of Japan, demonstrates measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor during his acceptance speech after winning the physics award during a performance at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.,Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa).

Have you ever heard about the Ig Nobels? Well, if the answer is negative, you definitely must find out more. The Ig Nobels are a very peculiar form of scientific award. In fact these prizes are awarded for achievements that first make people laugh then make them think.The Ig Nobel prize is handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at the Harvard University for silly sounding scientific discoveries that often have surprisingly practical applications.

Here it is the list of 2014 winners:

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

REFERENCE: “Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin,” Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151.

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

REFERENCE: “Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits,” Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.

REFERENCE: “Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?” Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585.

BIOLOGY PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, ZAMBIA]: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

REFERENCE: “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 27, 2013.

ART PRIZE [ITALY]: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.

REFERENCE: “Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds,” Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010“, ISTAT, 2014.

REFERENCE: “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010),” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

REFERENCE: “Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia,” Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY, USA, CANADA]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.

REFERENCE: “Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya,” Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.

NUTRITION PRIZE [SPAIN]: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”

REFERENCE: “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages,” Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311.

If you want to learn more (or maybe submit an essay or research project) about the Ig Nobels visit the website www.improbable.com.