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The Mini-AIR of March 2001


Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 16:57:06 -0500 (EST)
From: Marc Abrahams
Subject: mini-AIR March 2001 - Exciting Mesopotamia, Beard Vanish, Cheats

PLEASE FORWARD/POST AS APPROPRIATE
================================================================
mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
Issue Number 2001-03
March, 2001
ISSN 1076-500X
Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the
----------------------------------------------------------------
A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in the
Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the journal of inflated research and personalities
================================================================
2001-03-01 Table of Contents
2001-03-02 What's New in the Magazine
2001-03-03 Seattle -- Long May It Wave
2001-03-04 Math Awareness Survey
2001-03-05 She Oughta Be in Movie Ceremonies
2001-03-06 Moniker Reversal - Makhlouf
2001-03-07 Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club Update
2001-03-08 The Beard Vanishes
2001-03-09 Mustache Hair Hazard
2001-03-10 Cogno-Intellectual Astronomy
2001-03-11 AIR VENTS: Breatharianism, Mystery, Fruit
2001-03-12 Accomplished Cheaters
2001-03-13 Expert Challenge Met
2001-03-14 This Month's Coded Message
2001-03-15 Cavalcade of HotAIR: Egg, Usher, Etcetera
2001-03-16 Project AIRhead 2000: To Boldly Stop?
2001-03-17 Park Prohibition Competition
2001-03-18 April Fools Shocker
2001-03-19 AIR Recommends: Studious Searching
2001-03-20 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Macaroni, Cheese, and Warts
2001-03-21 AIRhead Events
2001-03-22 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
2001-03-23 Our Address (*)
2001-03-24 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)
2001-03-25 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.
mini-AIR is a free monthly *e-supplement* to AIR, the print magazine
----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-02 What's New in the Magazine

AIR 7:2 (Mar/Apr 2001) is a special YAVIS issue.

The issue is now at the printers, and should be emerging soon..

Many further delights are in the print magazine.

See the cover and full table of contents will be posted later this month on the AIR web site

(What you are reading at this moment is mini-AIR, a monthly e-mail small supplement to the print magazine.)
----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-03 Seattle -- Long May It Wave

Immediately following the February 28 earthquake, we surveyed Seattle-area researchers, asking them "Were you moved?"

The most cogent reply came from AIR ed board member Angela Close, an archaeologist based at the University of Washington. Here is Close's report:

* * *

"Quite unmoved. I was in the middle of a lecture to 200+ students when it struck. I realised something was going on when they began to dive under the desks - this is unusual behaviour even for Archaeology 105. So I got under a table too, and then crawled out because I was in an immensely tall room and could actually see waves going up the walls - one had to watch. When it stopped, I told the students they could leave if they wished, but that I was going to continue quite the most exciting lecture on Mesopotamia I have ever given. And I did.

"I now know that a large lecture-class with an earthquake is no more stressful than a large lecture-class without an earthquake."

* * *

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2001-03-04 Math Awareness Survey

April will be Math Awareness Month. For details see http://mathforum.com/mam/01/.

Please take part in our Math Awareness Survey:

Are you aware of math? [YES/NO]
Send your completed survey form to:
MATH AWARENESS SURVEY c/o

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2001-03-05 She Oughta Be in Movie Ceremonies

Investigator Joe Zeff attended AIR's recent seminar at the AAAS annual meeting, in San Francisco. He writes:

I was quite taken, yet again, by Miss Sweetie Poo's ability to keep the Ig Nobel acceptance speeches down to a reasonable length. Have you considered offering her services to the Academy Awards broadcast?
The answer is yes. And we take this opportunity to again publicly offer this technology to the Academy Awards organizers. Miss Sweetie Poo can be seen at
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i1/v7i1-toc.html
She can be heard at:
http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2000/Dec/hour1_122900.html

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2001-03-06 Moniker Reversal - Makhlouf

Here is another entry in our growing collection of names that are especially susceptible to moniker reversal. Investigator Jeffrey King gets credit for this discovery:

Professor Makhlouf M. Makhlouf
http://me.wpi.edu/Makhlouf.htm
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2001-03-07 Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club Update

There are many scientists who have luxuriant, flowing hair (LFH), it turns out. The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, the formation of which we announced last month, is in glorious flower. We have given the Club its own web site:

http://www.improbable.com/projects/hair/hair-club-top.html

Investigator Lucille Silverman sent in this published observation by club LFH Club nucleating member Steven Pinker:

"Luxuriant hair is always pleasing, possibly because it shows not only current health but a record of health in the years before. Malnutrition and disease weaken the hair as it grows from the scalp, leaving a fragile spot in the shaft. Long hair implies a long history of good health."
----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-08 The Beard Vanishes

Investigator Eric Ruff, who is Director/Curator of the Yarmouth County Museum, sent this research plea:

"Hi, I'm a bearded man who was challenged to shave off my 32-year- old beard (which my wife of 28 years has never seen me without) if our Society could raise $100,000 for our museum expansion. Last week we reached our goal and I will lose it (temporarily) on March 28th. We hope to have a chorus line of "Men with Beards" as well as lots of other fun that night. Check our web site www.ycn.ca/museum/yarcomus.htm. Go to Expansion, then to Eric's Beard."

We wish him well.

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2001-03-09 Mustache Hair Hazard

If you are unaware of the dangers of mustache hair, as we were, please read the historic report "A hair as the nucleus of an appendicular calculus," Athelstan Saw, British Medical Journal, vol. 190, no.455, 1901. If your collection of century old-BMJ's is not handy, then read the report on-line at
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/322/7286/587/b

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2001-03-10 Cogno-Intellectual Astronomy

Behold a newly discovered fruit from Project Cogno-Intellectual, our effort to insinuate a concocted, meaningless phrase into the conversation of others. Thanks to investigator Brian W. Darvell for bringing this one to our attention:

http://www.obs.aau.dk/~hans/mons/workshop1/instruct.html MONS Workshop - Instructions for authors The proceedings will be published at Aarhus University.
...
Note that the main purpose of these Proceedings is to define the cogno-intellectual science case, and much of the material will find its way into the "Phase A Study". It is therefore quite acceptable for you to recycle material from previous papers and to expand on the scientific possibilities of the mission beyond what was said in your talk.
----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-11 AIR VENTS: Breatharianism, Mystery, Fruit

Here are some recent effusions from readers:

A MATTER OF TASTE
"I was intrigued to see the following information on the Breatharian web site http://www.breatharian.com/title.html describing an upcoming seminar: How much: $425.00 includes the seminar, a single occupancy hotel room, meals and full use of the Sierra Hot Spring's vast property and healing pools. If the Breatharian philosophy has any merit, I would have thought meals were somewhat unnecessary..."
--Tony Whittaker

TASTY LITTLE NOTHING
"I checked out the 'Breatharian pot-luck' in February's Mini-AIR and was fascinated to find, in the www.breatharian.com web site, a link to www.fromages.com"
--Carmela Allevato and Jim Quail

DEBUNKED FRUIT
"About your web site's "Food-Based Nutrition" feature -- There is nothing 'intriguingly mysterious' about the red and white FDA logo. It's the top of an apple. The stem is sticking out with a little leaf attached."
--Maggie Newman

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2001-03-12 Accomplished Cheaters

The "I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED ACADEMIC FELON" solicitation last month drew many responses. Our readers, it turns out, are an accomplished lot. The juiciest of the confessions came with pleas that we not publish them; we are wistfully complying with those requests.

Here is a typical confession that we DO have permission to print:

Knowing that my British Literature professor sent the final exams to the print shop in early December, I staked out the mail room to see when the clerk picked up this professor's mail for delivery. For about a week, I showed up a half-hour earlier than the clerk and delivered the mail for the English department myself. I figure the that the price I paid for cheating was balanced by the free labor the school got out of me as an unpaid mail clerk during that week.
--Eric Waxman
For another, the shocking confession of investigator Dwight Fisher -- too shocking, but more important, too wordy for inclusion in mini-AIR, see http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/mar/fisher-cheat.html

Several readers happily recommended the book which was mentioned in the BMJ editorial that sparked off our project:

"Cheating on Tests: How to Do It, Detect It, and Prevent It," by Gregory J. Cizek (1999; Erlbaum)
Especially the chapter "How to Cheat: A Compendium of Methods".

----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-13 Expert Challenge Met

Last month's Expert Challenge Survey (#6) asked:

In a tag-team battle to the death, which would win:
(a) a team of Professional Experts; or
(b) a team of Amateur Experts?
The votes have been cast, collected, and partially counted. The counting has been stopped per order of the survey referee. Here are the results:
Amateur Experts 50%
Professional Experts 50%
Thus the winners are: the Professional Experts

Here are selected voter comments:

"As an experimental psychologist, I am always interested in this (till now unasked) question. The answer? (d) the public."
--Kirsten L. Rewey

"The answer is obvious. Professional Experts, by their very nature, are overpaid and under-motivated, whereas Amateur Experts are lean and hungry, looking to prove themselves. Amateur Experts in a landslide!"
-- David Schultz

"The professional experts would prevail, based on the same principle that holds in tug-of-war. The side with finite numbers will always get out-pulled by the side with infinite numbers. One might naively think that... [EDITOR'S NOTE: REMAINDER OF LENGTHY, THEORETICAL EXPLANATION HAS BEEN EXCISED DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS.] ... Imaginary experts would simply crush them. For their own good, I might add."
--David Murray

----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-14 This Month's Coded Message

Here is this month's unbreakably coded message:

Xvpoa a rekrek fd h dofihoah ohohoiahs sadjas asjsdafjkafjasfkjfsajsadfljsdfjsadfj rekrek afjksdfjkaf af rekrek jjsauj pdjngjojaohj.
[SOLUTION TO LAST MONTH'S MESSAGE: "Bhhjklzdga gvhaf kjhafd."]

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2001-03-15 Cavalcade of HotAIR: Egg, Usher, Etcetera

Here are concise, incomplete, flighty mentions of some of the features we've posted on HotAIR since last month's mini-AIR came out. You can get to all of them by clicking on "WHAT'S NEW" at the web site, or by going to: http://www.improbable.com/navstrip/whatsnew.html

THREE HOURS OF NOISE, a science lesson:
http://www.improbable.com/teach/lessons2001/office-noise.html

MORE FROM THE CELEBRITY NUTRITIONIST AND HIS WIFE:
http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/feb/celeb-nutri-3.html
and
http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/feb/celeb-nutri-4.html

HERB SIMON -- Our 2000 interview with the Nobel Laureate (Simon passed away last month):
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume6/v6i4/herb-simon.html

IDA SABELIS -- The first-hand account (with photos) of an Ig Nobel Winner:
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i1/sabel-speech-7-1.html

RICHARD LEDERER'S SALUTE TO VICTOR BORGE:
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i1/lederer-borge-7-1.html

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF YEARBOOK PICTURES
http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/feb/yearbook-pix-3.html

THREE CLASSICS from our AIRchives:

--THE TAXONOMY OF BARNEY
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/barney.htm

--APPLES AND ORANGES
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/air-1-3-apples.html

--CAFETERIA REVIEW - COLD SPRING HARBOR
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/cold.htm

AH, NATURE! (A musing about press releases)
http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/mar/ah-nature.html

THESE, AND MORE, ARE ON HOTAIR AT
http://www.improbable.com/navstrip/whatsnew.html

----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-16 Project AIRhead 2000: To Boldly Stop?

We have received letters imploring that we stop publishing selections from Project AIRhead 2000, our immense collection of items that inexplicably include "2000" in their names.

New items continue to pour into the collection. Here, for example, is ITEM #68404 (submitted by investigator Frank J. Nice):

TOP FLITE XL 2000 IRONS, golf clubs that are documented at
http://www.topflite.com/tf_golfclubs.html

Should the project be halted? If (and only if) you have strong views on this, send them to:
PROJECT 2000 OPINION c/o

-----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-17 Park Prohibition Competition

In all the world, which public park has the longest list of prohibitions? By this we mean such directives as "NO DOGS," "NO SMOKING," "NO ROLLER-BLADING," etc. This survey was suggested by investigator Andrea Liles, who was impressed by the number of prohibitions she saw posted in Philadelphia city parks.

The rules:
1. The prohibitions must be posted in an easily visible spot in or near the park.
2. You must be able to supply a photo (should we request it) of the sign listing the prohibitions.

We will send a handsome printed proclamation to the highest official who is theoretically responsible for overseeing the winning park, and will publicly celebrate him or her, and the park and the prohibitions.

Please send your nomination to:
PARK PROHIBITION COMPETITION c/o
Include the name and location of the park, and a complete list of the prohibitions.

----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-18 April Fools Shocker

If you are looking for the perfectly shocking way to help someone celebrate April Fools Day, we recommend a gift subscription to the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Since most people -- even most mini-AIR readers) believe that the magazine (AIR, as contrasted with mini-AIR) does not actually exist, the look of shock and perhaps delight when a copy arrives on your victim's doorstep will be incalculable. See section 2001-03-22 below.

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2001-03-19 AIR Recommends: Studious Searching

This month we inaugurate yet another mini-AIR monthly feature: "Research Spotlight." We select for your special attention a research report that is probably worth your getting a copy and showing it to each and every one of your colleagues and acquaintances.

This month's selection:

"Searching for Sexually Explicit Materials on the Internet: An Exploratory Study of College Students' Behavior and Attitudes," Patricia Goodson, Deborah McCormick, and Alexandra Evans, Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 30, no. 2, April 2001, pp. 101-18. (Thanks to Stephen Pratt for bringing this to our attention.) The authors are at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

-----------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-20 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Macaroni, Cheese, and Warts

Here is a further selection of items that merit a trip to the library.

ANTARCTIC MACARONI CONSUMPTION
"Heart Rate and Rate of Oxygen Consumption of Exercising Macaroni Penguins," J. A. Green, P. J. Butler, A. J. Woakes, I. L. Boyd and R. L. Holder, Journal of Experimental Biology, no. 204, part 4, February 1, 2001, pp. 673-84.
(Thanks to Oliver Baker for bringing this to our attention.) The authors describe how they got their data:

Twenty-four macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) from three groups, breeding males (N=9), breeding females (N=9) and moulting females (N=6), were exercised on a variable-speed treadmill.

GUTS, CHEESE, AND DETERMINATION
"Scanning Electron Microscopy Determination of String Mozzarella Cheese in Gastric Contents," S.F. Platek, J.B. Crowe, N. Ranieri, and K.A. Wolnick, Journal of Forensic Science, vol. 46, no. 1, 2001, pp. 131-4. (Thanks to Bea Thomas and Al Tapley for bringing this to our attention.)

LOW-DOWN MISMANAGEMENT
"Editorial on Management of Anal Warts is Misleading," Lynn A Riddell and Anne Edwards, British Medical Journal, vol. 322, February 24, 2001, p. 494. (Thanks to B.F. Wong for bringing this to our attention.)

For a much more extensive list of citations, subscribe to AIR.

------------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-21 AIRhead Events For details and updates see http://www.improbable.com
Want to host an event? 617-491-4437.

WASHINGTON DC APR 20, 2001
Details TBA

SAS/ACS SPECIAL JOINT MEETING, PRINCETON, NJ DATE TBA

WEIZMANN INSTITUTE, ISRAEL WEEK OF MAY 13-18, 2001
Details TBA.

HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM MAY 2001
Tentatively scheduled. Details TBA.

11th FIRST ANNUAL IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY THURS, OCT 4, 2001
Sanders Theatre, Harvard University

--------------------------------------------------------------
2001-03-22 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

Here's how to subscribe to the magnificent bi-monthly print journal The Annals of Improbable Research (the real thing, not just the little bits of overflow material you have been reading here in mini-AIR).
...............................................................
Name:
Address:
Address:
City and State:
Zip or postal code:
Country
Phone: FAX: E-mail:
...............................................................
SUBSCRIPTIONS (6 issues per year):
USA 1 yr/$24.95 2 yrs/$44.95
Canada/Mexico 1 yr/$28.95 US 2 yrs/$49.95 US
Overseas 1 yr/$41.95 US 2 yrs/$71.95 US
...............................................................
BACK ISSUES are available, too:
First issue: $8 USA, $11 Canada/Mex, $16 overseas Add'l issues
purchased at same time: $6 each
...............................................................
Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or
Visa, Mastercard or Discover info) to:

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA 617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

-----------------------------------------------------
2001-03-23 Our Address (*)

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

EDITORIAL:
SUBSCRIPTIONS: air@improbable.com
WEB SITE:

---------------------------
2001-03-24 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.

------------- mini-AIRheads -------------

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams ()
MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last
few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson
WWW EDITOR/GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT: Amy Gorin
()
COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen ()
ASSOCIATIVE EDITOR: Mark Dionne
DISTRIBUTIVE EDITOR: Robin Pearce
CO-CONSPIRATORS: Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, Craig Haggart, Nicki Rohloff
MAITRE DE COMPUTATION: Jerry Lotto
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon
Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

(c) copyright 2001, Annals of Improbable Research

-----------------------------------------------------
2001-03-25 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. Mini-AIR is a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine.
To subscribe, send a brief E-mail message to:

The body of your message should contain ONLY the words
SUBSCRIBE MINI-AIR MARIE CURIE
(You may substitute your own name for that of Madame Curie.)
----------------------------
To stop subscribing, send the following message: SIGNOFF MINI-AIR


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