Ig Nobel EuroTour 2019 and BahFest London 2019

On Saturday 16 March 2019, Imperial College London hosted a day of science themed hilarity with 2 events taking place: Ig Nobel EuroTour 2019 and BahFest London 2019.

Ig Nobel EuroTour 2019, London

The Ig Nobel Awards Tour Show honors achievements that make people laugh and then make them think. It’s not about if something is good or bad, important or worthless. The Ig Nobel Prize is a parody of the Nobel Prize awarded yearly, since 1991, to celebrate 10 unusual, trivial and/or imaginative achievements globally in scientific research, to spur people’s interest and curiosity in science, medicine and technology and to raise the question: How do you decide what’s important and what’s not, and what’s real and what’s not — in science and everywhere else?

Each Ig Nobel Prize winner gets a (cheap poorly made) award/trophy and a cash prize of 10 trillion dollars (from the Bank of Zimbabwe, approximately equivalent to £0.03)

The show was hosted by Ig Nobel founder Marc Abrahams, who spoke about the research carried out by previous winners. Highlights included:

  • 2 years ago, a guy won a prize for looking into the physics of what happens when you hold a full cup of coffee in your extended arm and walk backwards. He was building upon research he read about a decade earlier that won an Ig Nobel prize for what happens when you hold a full hot cup of coffee in your extended arm and walk forwards.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel Medicine prize went to research regarding the use of roller coasters to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel Anthropology prize went to a team based in Sweden for collecting evidence in a zoo supporting that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel Biology prize went to a team based in Sweden for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine. Their paper describing this is called “The Scent of the Fly”.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel Medical Education prize was for the medical report “Colonoscopy in the sitting position: lessons learned from self-colonoscopy”.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel literature prize was awarded for documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual. They published a paper “Life is too short to RTFM…”.
  • The 2018 Ig Nobel economics prize was given for investigating whether it’s effective for employees to use voodoo dolls against abusive bosses.

Several IG Nobel Prize Winners spoke about their research:

  • Ig Nobel Prize winner James Heathcote: Why do old men have big ears?
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Alex Garcia-Faura: Vagina music, for fetuses
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner James Cole: Nutritional value of human cannibalism

Imperial College’s Robert Ewers gave an interesting short talk entitled ‘Boring Speakers Talk for Longer’.

You can watch the event on YouTube (1:52:37): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTjDeBFEp4Q

The next Ig Nobel ceremony is on 12 September 2019 and will be live streamed.

BahFest London 2019

BahFest London 2019, which stands for Bad Adhoc Hypothesis Festival, celebrates for the 4th year, well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect scientific theory. 7 speakers present their theories to a live audience and a panel of judges (with real science credentials) to determine who wins the BAHFest award/trophy.

The event was hosted by stand-up comedian and mathematician Matt Parker.

The keynote was given by economist Tim Harford, who spoke about the power of incentives. Incentives are tremendously powerful but can backfire and not lead to the intended result.

The first speaker was Jack McMinn, a post graduate student studying Zoology at the University of Cambridge, who presented “The importance of localised Acinonyx jubatus Ignition to African Ecology and Predator-Prey Dynamics”. He suggested that the primary cause of fire on the African Savannah is due to cheetahs running into trees at top speed and violently exploding in a horrific ball of flame, after being steered by gazelles to do so. He concluded with the solution to save the cheetah by destroying all the trees in Africa. One of the judges asked if chopping down the trees was ethically the right thing to do. Jack replied “I don’t think it’s stopped us before”.

The second speaker was Ed Bilson, a chartered mechanical engineer working in the public transport sector, who spoke about “Twenty First Century Rapid Transit Using Nineteenth Century Infrastructure”, covering transport and sanitation. He stated there is a public transport problem where capacity is only just keeping ahead of demand, resulting in a serious decline in public toilet provision. His proposed solution is to send commuters in pods at high speed down London’s sewers using a new A.L.B.E.R.T line: All-London Bowel Evacuation Rapid Transit. He addressed concerns such as smell, blockages and supply.

The third speaker was Charvy Narain, a recovering neuroscientist who currently works in science communication, who’s talk was “Bad maternity care directly predisposes belief in a vengeful creator God”. She suggested that giving birth is hard as it’s punishment from a vengeful God who really really hates women, based on the Bible Genesis 3:16: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Charvy showed data comparing the maternal experience along with the belief in a vengeful patriarchal God in the US, UK and Finland.

The fourth to speak was Ed Thorne, a writer and improviser from London, about “Revamping Dark Sector Physics”. Ed said that via telescopes, we only see about 11% of the universe, the rest is what we call Dark Matter. However, instead of using expensive big optical telescopes with lenses, mirrors are used, so it’s not accurate to say that most of the universe is not visible. It is more accurate to say that most of the universe doesn’t have a reflection in the mirror. Therefore, Ed proposes that dark matter is primarily composed of vampires. He went on to talk about dark electromagnetism, dark higgs and vampires turning into bats. When a Judge asked a tough question, Ed answered “I’m no… oh, I am an expert, oh God!”

Fifth to speak was Diego Quinones, a physicist from Mexico, who spoke about “Dad Joke: An Adaptive Dispersion Mechanism”. Diego looked at why dad’s tell awful jokes. The hypothesis is that they promote nest leaving.

The sixth speaker was Louie Terrill, who’s studying for a Physics degree at Imperial College, who presented on “The Overview Effect – An overlooked intervention”. He suggested that viewing the earth from space firsthand changes how you think and that everyone should go to space to do this in order to positively impact social change.

The final seventh speaker was Katherine Read, a medical student at Imperial College. She spoke about the correlation between Bipedalism and social awareness, explaining the impact that evolution and socialistic has had on humans using their hands.

The award for the best use of Graphs, Charts and/or figures went to: Jack McMinn

The overall winner was: Ed Thorne.

One comment the host made that I liked was “Don’t applaud effort, applaud results”.

You can watch the event on YouTube (2:18:52): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM6e_poFunM

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