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2010 Ig Nobel Winners Announced 111

Posted by kdawson
from the whale-snot dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Having trouble breathing? Try riding a roller-coaster. Really. A pair of Dutch researchers who discovered that the symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride are among this year's winners of the Ig Nobel awards, the infamous annual tribute to scientific research that seems wacky — but also has real world applications. FoxNews.com has interviews with several award winners, who are all ecstatic to win, despite the fact that they're all gently being poked fun at."
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2010 Ig Nobel Winners Announced

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  • by line-bundle (235965) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:57PM (#33755156) Homepage Journal


    And finally, a project at the University of Catania in Italy was awarded the management prize for demonstrating mathematically that organizations can improve efficiency by promoting people randomly.

    This research deserves a far better prize than the Ig Nobel. Just look at the management in companies! An algorithm far worse than random is being used to select the worst of the worst to run companies.

    I believe most institutions run in spite of management.

    And don't mod this funny.

    • by satoshi1 (794000)
      I wish I had mod points...
    • by qvatch (576224)
      This makes me cry.
    • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:29PM (#33755302) Homepage

      From their site: "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." Certainly fits; contrary to what many people think it's not about "stupid" research. After all, the prizes "are physically handed out by genuinely bemused Nobel laureates" - would perceiving the whole thing only as harmless fun be enough to get them so easily aboard?

      PS. Also, you jump too quickly to conclusions - the effect might as well be, for example, that when people know the promotions will be random, they don't care too much / there's no infighting / the random ones aren't worse enough (but with other positive effects it pays off) / etc.

      • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:55PM (#33755430) Homepage Journal
        You quoted their website, which stated that their solutions are unusual and imaginative. The summary:

        Having trouble breathing? Try riding a roller-coaster. Really. A pair of Dutch researchers who discovered that the symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride...

        Most asthmatics know that the emergency treatment for severe attacks is a shot of adrenaline. A ride on a rollercoaster is also kinda a shot of adrenaline. I suppose holding a loaded gun to one's head may also alleviate symptoms.

        Kinda like that Simpsons episode where Bart has all this stuff super-glued to his face, and Dr. Hibert breaks out a menacing-looking nailgun to remove them. Bart simply sweats them off as Dr. Hibert laughs. Bart asks why Dr. Hibert couldnt've just turned up the thermostat, and Dr. Hibert responds evilly,

        No, it had to be terror sweat!

        • by mrmeval (662166)

          It's called the "Goonies" effect.

        • by Guignol (159087)
          :) fantastic post !
        • It was a button applicator!

          Or something to that extent.

          Why do I remember that?

        • by Longboy (914947)
          What if, in addition to asthma, you have acrophobia, like me? My first ride on a roller coaster - in 1956 - was my last. I'm still fucked, I guess.
      • by Opyros (1153335)

        physically handed out by genuinely bemused Nobel laureates

        Is bemused [onelook.com] the right word here? It isn't synonymous with "amused". (Sorry for the pedantry, but I am the penultimate prescriptivist.)

      • I have long advocated sortition (choosing positions in government through lottery).

        It appears now there is some research to justify this.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Even if it "works" it seems to be a significantly different thing - a random promotion of one position "up" within the same organisation isn't similar at all to an outright lottery for arguably one of the most crucial (unless everything would be really handed by backstage clerks anyway) positions in a given country.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:39PM (#33755354)

      Ig Nobels are not really an insult. They CAN be, but they aren't necessarily.

    • by youn (1516637)

      Too bad I don't have mod points, I did find the end of the post funny :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Like the old saying goes: Those that can, do; Those that can't are promoted to management" Of course, then there is the old saying that "You only get promoted to the level of your incompetency"

      A randomized promotion system would tend to push the real workers, the ones who make things happen, into positions where they can affect change.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        A randomized promotion system would tend to push the real workers, the ones who make things happen, into positions where they can affect change.

        Effect. You fail at management speak.

        • by cellocgw (617879)

                  A randomized promotion system would tend to push the real workers, the ones who make things happen, into positions where they can affect change.

          Effect. You fail at management speak.

          That rather depends on what the OP actually meant. A manager can certainly effect changes, but he/she can also affect changes.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just got done reading The Peter Principle (http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Principle-Laurence-J/dp/1568491611), so this looks like a dangerously accurate theory.

      • I once had a manager tell me the Peter Principle was company policy. He didn't use the same words, and didn't call it the Peter Principle, but the meaning was dead on.

        That was not a good place to work.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 01, 2010 @12:23AM (#33755792)
      Precisely, the way that many organizations promote people you wind up with incompetent butt kissers and psychopaths being promoted. Whereas if you promote people at random, you get those individuals roughly proportional to their representation at the bottom. The individuals who can't cut it would then tend to drop out leaving you with better managers.

      OTOH that's terribly depressing, if a validation of the general observation about management practices.
    • by Boju! (31741)

      Sounds like they have mathematical demonstration of the Peter principle. This is where "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence".

    • by jimicus (737525)


      And finally, a project at the University of Catania in Italy was awarded the management prize for demonstrating mathematically that organizations can improve efficiency by promoting people randomly.

      This research deserves a far better prize than the Ig Nobel. Just look at the management in companies! An algorithm far worse than random is being used to select the worst of the worst to run companies.

      I believe most institutions run in spite of management.

      And don't mod this funny.

      That doesn't actually hugely surprise me. At least one well-known jobhunting book claims that companies get just as good results choosing new staff by pulling names out of a hat as they do through the traditional application/interview process, and I first read that in around 2002.

    • by VJ42 (860241) * on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:52AM (#33756664)
      Here's a link to the actual paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.0455 [arxiv.org]
      • by Thelasko (1196535)
        A quick search of the paper seems to indicate the author did not rule out the Hawthorne Effect. [wikipedia.org]
      • by anonicow (1850904)

        The only way this "scientific" paper could have been given a prize is because it rubs people's preconceived notions the right way: the grand-parent post is living proof of this. But scientifically, it's absolutely worthless.

        Here is the paper in a nutshell: if you operate under the crazy assumption that the competence of someone has absolutely NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER on how well they will do their job when they get promoted to a higher level, then it makes no sense to promote skilled people since they won't do

    • No, I'm serious. And don' call me Shirley!

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      That's because its about who you know, who you went to school with, which buddy is on your board, which board your buddy wants you on and what back room deals you can swap with each other to make each of you look good; in the short term. And once you look good, you all get together for a circle jerk to give each other a raise.

      Most companies today are led by people whos sole desire is to see how much they can legally plunder - even while they are sinking the ship they plunder. But, what do you expect when li

      • by sznupi (719324)

        You seem to put it like it's something new?...

        (in fact, I'd say there's certainly less of such stuff going on than was the case "historically"; still too much of course)

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      I wonder if the same principle would apply to government. Let's start assigning random people to public office and see if that helps.

    • by Kvasio (127200)

      Actually, in "good ol' times" - 2006-2007, 95% of the investment funds in Poland recorded lower profits (or even loses) than average for all possible random baskets of 20 stocks. And journalist who discovered it found also, that his toddler had better results in picking stocks than fund managers :-)

    • by BraksDad (963908)
      Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach. Those that can't teach, administer. Those that can't administer, manage.
    • by Geminii (954348)

      An algorithm far worse than random is being used to select the worst of the worst to run companies.

      Self-selection.

      Obviously, the best solution is to promote people who don't WANT to be promoted. And hope that doesn't make them quit. I know at least one ex-boss of mine had to be almost forcibly crowbarred into management, and did a brilliant job. Of course, I turned down a lot of promotion opportunities myself because being responsible for other people's screwups would have put me in a rubber room in sh

  • by Meshach (578918) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:00PM (#33755166)
    That should cover three minutes twice a year.
  • Woah missread (Score:2, Informative)

    by furgle (1825812)
    I thought it was lg as in LG nobel Winners Announced Can you tell the difference : lg Ig
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why would the name of a company that is universally written as LG (note the CAPITAL letters) suddenly show up as lg (lowercase)? Even slashdot isn't that sloppy. Don't be an idiot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BluBrick (1924)

        Even slashdot isn't that sloppy. Don't be an idiot.

        You must be new here, Mr. Coward.

    • Re:Woah missread (Score:4, Interesting)

      by arth1 (260657) on Friday October 01, 2010 @12:29AM (#33755812) Homepage Journal

      1: If you haven't heard about the Ig Nobel prize before now, I wonder where you've been. I'm pretty sure that most slashdotters can list more Ig Nobel winning research than Alfred Nobel winning research. On the geek scale, Ig Nobel ranks up there with Darwin awards, knowing Binky's colour and the 20th decimal of pi.

      2: Not everyone uses a font where I and l look similar. In fact, programmers, sysadmins and other computer geeks tend to abhor fonts with ambiguity. If you can't tell an Omelet from an 0rneIet, you need to change your font NOW.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by mirix (1649853)


        You'll take my courier from my cold, dead hands

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Not everyone uses a font where I and l look similar

        But I and I are identical, as are l and l, not just similar, so I don't see what you're getting at.

    • by koinu (472851)

      And what is it exactly "Ig"? I first thought it was "1g" (one gramm; a small nobel statue in gold).

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      I thought it was "lg nobel" as in

      nobel = 10^x
      x = lg nobel

  • My favorite one was the youtube video of the fruit bat giving head... maybe I need to get out more....
  • Socks (Score:5, Informative)

    by shermo (1284310) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:41PM (#33755362)

    "In research that could boost the sales of socks in New England, a study out of the University of Otago in New Zealand found that wearing socks over shoes results in far fewer slips and falls on icy footpaths. It won the physics prize."

    This is common knowledge here amongst yachties and other people who walk on green covered slipways (they're not called that for nothing). Put on some rugby socks and you won't fall over. It's counter-intuitive but it works.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The role of science has always been either to experiment on what everybody knows or on what nobody ever guessed.

      And hey, now your common knowledge is backed up by a scientific study meaning people can't call it anecdotal anymore.

    • It's counter-intuitive but it works.

      It's not even counter-intuitive, at least, not to me. In the Navy, decks topside are painted with something called "non-skid," a mixture of paint and sand. (Five gallons of the stuff have only two gallons of liquid; the rest is pigment and sand.) You'd think that this would be enough to keep people from slipping on wet decks, but I can assure you from personal experience that it's not always! Of course, the deck was not only wet, it was moving when I lost my footin

    • by hcdejong (561314)

      Alternatively, wear shoes with grippy (profiled rubber) soles instead of stupid leather soles.

    • by paiute (550198)

      "In research that could boost the sales of socks in New England, a study out of the University of Otago in New Zealand found that wearing socks over shoes results in far fewer slips and falls on icy footpaths. It won the physics prize."

      This is common knowledge here amongst yachties and other people who walk on green covered slipways (they're not called that for nothing). Put on some rugby socks and you won't fall over. It's counter-intuitive but it works.

      Counter-intuitive? It seemed very intuitive to me. But I can't find socks to fit my big feet. Good luck finding ones to go over my shoes.

  • by oldhack (1037484) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:43PM (#33755374)
    Plainly, women are no longer underrepresented in science and whatnot. Look up the winners' names.
  • Slime Molds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @11:22PM (#33755560)

    I'm glad to see the use of slime molds to study transport networks on there.

    I honestly thought it was one of the most interesting bits of research I'd seen all year.

  • Not all of them. It's not unheard of, or even uncommon for winners to be self-nominated. I remember back in 1996 when the award in Public Health [wikipedia.org] went to a pair of doctors who'd nominated themselves for a paper they'd published about a case of VD he'd treated for a Norwegian ship captain. He won because it turned out that said captain had caught the disease at sea from an inflatable partner.
  • The site itself (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trevelyan (535381) on Friday October 01, 2010 @05:17AM (#33756758)
    I note that TFA summary lacks a link to the ig Nobels own site..
    So here it is [nyud.net] although via Corel Cache since the site appears to be taking quite a heavy hit.

    I think I'm probably the first to try via corel cache so its still loading for me, but I hope giving this link will improve that...
  • I was there, and as we left the place there were people handing out small packages of red Swedish fish. So the mystery is solved(?)

  • ENGINEERING PRIZE: for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.

    MEDICINE PRIZE: for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.

    TRANSPORTATION PLANNING PRIZE: for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.

    PHYSICS PRIZE: for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.

    PEACE PRIZE: for confirming the widely held be
  • Once we get FDA Approval for the use of roller coasters to treat asthma, I will look forward to forcing my insurance company to build one for me in my back yard. YAY!

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