Thursday night, we finally found out who won the most exciting awards in science! Well, maybe “exciting” isn’t the best word for the 22nd Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Perhaps I should say “bizarre,” or even “hilarious.” Every autumn, scientists from all over the world gather at Harvard to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Like the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobels include categories such as peace, physics, and chemistry. In fact, Nobel laureates traditionally present the awards during the ceremony.
But that’s where the parallels end. It’s unlikely that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to Russians who turn old ammunition into miniscule diamonds for use in medical imaging. Or that analyzing the motion of a ponytail would earn the prestigious Nobel for physics. Only the Ig Nobel Prizes would reward scientists for studying why coffee sloshes out of the cup, testing the brain activity of dead fish, creating a speech jammer, and writing a report about reports about reports.
Hey, Internet. It’s science here wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. And we do mean happy—we wouldn’t be here if there weren’t any oxygen in the air right?
Let’s start with a pretty picture. Copy all of the below mathematical function and enter it into Google. Just do it.
sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5
…and links to the best V-Day science out there:
That soap opera cliche of someone clutching their chest and kneeling over dead after finding out a dead lover has some science behind it. Sudden shocks—even positive ones like winning the lottery—can cause a massive release of adrenaline, causing the heart to freeze up. The hearts of patients who die from this take on a distinctive shape resembling a Japanese octopus trap, which is where the name takotsubo cardiomyopathy comes from.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, writers dig up the origin of the holiday to talk about naked Romans. Sorry, we’re not immune to it either. Those pagan Romans used to run around naked with whips, hitting young women to increase their fertility. (Seriously? Dinner plans are looking so much better now.) Then, the Church pegged that pagan celebration to the story of St. Valentine, so today we have chocolate and roses and singing valentines. We’re not really sure what those have to do with St. Valentine either.
The “love hormone” oxytocin makes you more empathetic and generous and, as it turns out, also more racist and less trustful. Huh? Ed Yong, who’s covered this before on his blog, writes on the latest hypothesis about oxytocin at New Scientist. Instead of just making us feel cuddly, it helps direct our attention to salient social cues in the environment. And what’s salient, of course, depends on the environment.
Since Facebook tracks both your relationship status to and what songs you listen to when (among other things), they put it together and released a list of most popular songs when starting new relationships and breaking up. We’re only surprised that Adele doesn’t have a monopoly on the breakup list.
Oldies but goodies. Two pieces comparing the types of men and women you date with the types of physics you might encounter. Did you know that the derivative of acceleration is called jerk? Just saying some of these remind us of that.
Elsewhere on DISCOVER, you’ve got the hearts of space (love really is universal), animals that don’t have sex (sex is not so universal), and right here on Discoblog’s NCBI ROFL is the Valentine’s week archive. Get lovin’.
It’s almost Thanksgiving here the US. Before you tuck into your stuffing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce, save a little room for a big helping of science. Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving science stories from around the Internet, detailing the research behind fattening turkeys, giving thanks, post-holiday shopping, and more: Read More
He may be smiling, but it’s no laughing matter:
he’s got the man-flu the game is on.
Either British women are, uh, kind of slow, or English guys are more persuasive than we realized. According to Reuters, a survey found that one in five British ladies believe that “man-flu” is real, a condition which leaves afflicted gentlemen laid up on the couch watching sports. If I had known this could work, I would have caught this fictional bug long ago. This silly survey of 2,000 British adults found that many believed in a surprising amount of myths and old wive’s tales—although perhaps the “man-flu” would be better described as an “old husband’s tale.”
• Coyotes are what they eat: Feeding pups soft food changes their bones and muscle structures, making it more difficult for them to chomp on harder stuff later in life. That bites.
• About one-quarter of the food in the U.S. is wasted each year–and 16 percent of our energy goes toward food production. The result? We waste more energy in the food we throw out than is available via offshore drilling.
• If you get bored this weekend (and have $8,000 to spare), fret not. You can always build and launch your very own satellite.
• Run DMC: Listening to music in which the tempo matches a runner’s stride increases athletes’ endurance by about 15 percent.
• Cow-dung toothpaste, a deer penis, and guinea pigs: just a few of the bizarre items travelers have been caught attempting to smuggle through JFK International Airport. No wonder it takes so long to go through customs.
Ed Yong on Note Exactly Rocket Science, Carl Zimmer on The Loom, Razib Khan on Gene Expression, Daniel Holz at Cosmic Variance, and Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum on The Intersection want to know who you are, what your background is and what you do…
If you want to shout back with more about you and how you found our little piece of the interwebs, that’s great. Or, feel free to answer to any of these questions:
1) What animal would you never want to be?
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3) Name one science acronym that you find questionable.
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• Exposed! Martian moons Phobos and Deimos have been caught on camera together for the very first time.
• Not sure what to get that Sri Lankan farmer in your life this holiday season? Send them a package of poo… seriously.
• Australian family lives in an electric motor-powered rotating house that guarantees a different view every time they wake up.
• Avast ye matey! Indian Ocean pirates arrr trouble for lily-livered climate researchers. OK jokes aside, Somali pirates are such a serious threat that the scientists studying Indian Ocean conditions need an armed escort to carry out their work.
• Nonja the Orangutan can update her own Facebook page. Apparently, she’s also a fan of the camera-phone-too-close-to-the-face profile pic.
• The Iron Curtain not only isolated Eastern Europe, it also kept alien bird species from colonizing it.
• Nepal’s cabinet met today to discuss climate change’s effect on the Himalayas—5,242 meters high at the base of Mount Everest.
• Finally, it’s Friday. Time to kick back, crack open a few space beers, and enjoy the weekend.
• Gardak! To learn about children and language, Dad speaks to son only in Klingon for first three years of the child’s life.
• In Soviet Russia, blog writes you! Maksim Suraev, a Russian cosmonaut, joins the blogosphere with a healthy dose of cold war humor about life on the International Space Station.
• Wisconsin looks to become the first state to recognize an official state microbe. Of course the bacterium, Lactococcus lactis, ferments the state’s $18 billion per year cheese industry.
• An Italian art collector found a mummified tooth, thumb, and finger of Galileo Galilei that have been missing since 1905, according to Florence’s History of Science museum.