Friday, September 30, 2011

Nobel Season: Meet the Ig Nobels

I liked the coverage in The Guardian and The Chronicle. Here's the full list at the Improbable Research website.

The Chronicle focuses on the Literature Prize, because the Prize-winning article appeared in its pages back in 1996: How to Procrastinate, and Still Get Things Done. It was by John R. Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford, who "deemed the tardiness of his award "quite appropriate" given the nature of his essay." [Perry has expanded on this theme in several follow-up essays -- all available at at Structured Procrastination.]

Here's the Guardian, leading off with the research on wasabi:

How do you wake a deaf person in the middle of the night if there's a fire? Squirt a cloud of wasabi at them, of course. For the Japanese researchers who came up with the horseradish-based alarm system, it was a lifesaving piece of work, but on Thursday night they entered the history books with the award of the Ig Nobel prize for chemistry.

The Japanese scientists and engineers who came up with the 50,000-yen (£400) wasabi alarm tried hundreds of odours, including rotten eggs, before settling on the Japanese condiment – a favourite of sushi lovers. Its active ingredient, allyl isothiocyanate, acts as an irritant in the nose that works even when someone is asleep. "That's why [people] can wake up after inhalation of air-diluted wasabi," said Makoto Imai of the department of psychiatry at Shiga University of Medical Science, one of the team that won this year's Ig Nobel for chemistry.


  1. MP said...

    I would've enjoyed Perry's "Personal Identity" a lot more if I knew about this essay before!

    To those interested, it contains Derek Parfit's famous essay on the topic, which anticipates some of the recent cognitive neuroscience work on out-of-body experiences and the Alice illusion.

    I personally think Indian science, particularly neuroscience, suffers from the lack of imaginative AND rigorous philosophy (most philosophy, everywhere, fits only one of these criteria, usually the latter). It would be nice to have at least one good philosophy department, in one of the better institutes like TIFR or NCBS.