My recent Ig Nobel talk, at TED Talks

October 24th, 2014

The talk I did recently at TEDMED is today’s talk of the day at the TED Talks site:

For more detail about any of the winners, I mention, see the full list of Ig Nobel Prize winners.

Two quick Belgian video compilations of Ig Nobel highlights

October 24th, 2014

Lieven Scheire and his colleagues at Nerdland, in Belgium, produced these brief videos — compressed visual highlights from the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony webcast, and from the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony webcast:

BONUS: Lieven Scheire’s video —taken at the 2014 Ig Nobel webcast-watching party in Ghent — of Belgian Ig Nobel enthusiasts doing their own paper airplane deluge in tandem with the one happening at the Ig Nobel ceremony:


October 24th, 2014

Dr. Luke Bennett, a Senior Lecturer & Course Leader at the Department of the Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, is a leading, perhaps the leading ‘Bunkerologist’. In fact it was he who created the term – meaning ‘the study of bunkers’. For a recent publication on the subject, see : Who goes there? Accounting for gender in the urge to explore abandoned military bunkers’ in: Gender, Place and Culture (A Journal of Feminist Geography), Volume 20, Issue 5, 2013.

The author points out that the vast majority (though not all) bunker enthusiasts are male, and offers some ideas on why that might be the case. For example:

“From a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective, there is perhaps much that could be made of the focus, within this culture, of the shelter-as-womb and the preoccupation with penetration and return to that protective space.”

and/or possibly because of, or connected with:

“[...] a peripatetic nostalgia borne of a medley of factors: a primal urge to retreat to a place of (defensive) shelter, a nostalgia for a time where male roles had more clarity and importance (e.g. as ‘defender’), the alienation of deindustrialisation, the move away from a culture of ‘making things’ and a desire in retirement or redundancy to return to or to protect the working-life material places and artefacts that formerly gave life (and male identity) meaning.”

For further info., the author maintains a blog called ‘lukebennett13 ‘Tracing the spectacular within the humdrum of the built environment’ which features a number of bunkerological posts.

Note: Improbable apologises for the late notice regarding an event in a (somewhat) related field which is cited in the paper : Shedism. The International Men’s Sheds Festival 2014 was held October 3rd – 5th, 2014, Dublin, Ireland,

Coming soon : The testicular fortitude of urbexers

[many thanks to Dr. Bennett for his assistance]

Detecting Who Is Or Isn’t A Lie Detection Wizard

October 23rd, 2014

Some measure of truth is present in one or both or neither of these studies:

On lie detection ‘wizards‘”, C.F. Bond, A. Uysal, Law and Human Behavior, 31 (2007), pp. 109–115. the authors explain:

“M. O’Sullivan and P. Ekman (2004) claim to have discovered 29 wizards of deception detection. The present commentary offers a statistical critique of the evidence for this claim. Analyses reveal that chance can explain results that the authors attribute to wizardry. Thus, by the usual statistical logic of psychological research, O’Sullivan and Ekman’s claims about wizardry are gratuitous.”


The wizards of deception detection,” M. O’Sullivan, P. Ekman, in  P.A. Granhag, L.A. Stromwall (Eds.), Deception detection in forensic contexts, Cambridge Press, Cambridge, UK (2004), pp. 269–286.

He was honored first for swearing, now for smiling

October 22nd, 2014

RStephens200x200Richard Stephens, who was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for his research about swearing and pain, has just won a writing competition for his work about smiling. The Wellcome Trust reports:

Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2014: The winners are…
22 OCT, 2014

The winners of the fourth Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize were announced this evening at a ceremony held at Wellcome Trust HQ in London. With over 600 entries to choose from, picking a single winner in each category was no simple task… Split into two categories – professional scientists (postgraduate and above) and non-professionals (including undergraduates)…

the judges picked Richard Stephens and Kate Széll as this year’s winners. Richard’s piece on smiling – ‘Don’t say cheese, say cheeks’ – earned him the crown (okay, trophy!) in the professional scientists category, while Kate’s article on facial blindness entitled ‘Prosopagnosia – a common problem, commonly overlooked’ was the winner of the non-professional and undergraduate category.

Richard Stephens and two of his students (all of them at Keele University) were awarded the 2010 Ig Nobel peace prize for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain. (REFERENCE: “Swearing as a Response to Pain,” Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, Neuroreport, vol. 20 , no. 12, 2009, pp. 1056-60.)