Ig Nobel Prizes of 2005

This years Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded in the following categories to the following people for the following reasons:

– Agricultural history, to James Watson, for the study into “The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley’s Exploding Trousers”.

– Physics: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell for dripping tar at a rate of one drip per nine years (experiment still ongoing).

– Medicine: Gregg Miller for inventing artificial testicles for castrated dogs.

– Literature: the collective Nigerian scam spammers, for their entire Å“uvre.

– Peace: Claire Rind and Peter Simmons for monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie “Star Wars.”

– Economics: Gauri Nanda for inventing an alarm clock that hides from its owner.

– Chemistry: Edward Cussler and Brian Gettelfinger for determining experimentally whether people swim faster in syrup or water.

– Biology: Benjamin Smith and others for catalogueing 131 smells of stressed out frogs. (Presumably the new Axe commercial has Kermit running from miss Piggy.)

– Nutrition: Yoshiro Nakamats for taking photos of all his meals of the past 34 years (experiment still on-going).

– Fluid Dynamics: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal for calculating the pressures that build in a penguin while defacating.

House of Cosbys

He was a Cosby fan at heart, it’s clear
He searched and found a Cosby hair
He spent ten long years to build a cloning machine
And now he has accomplished his wonderful dream:
To make a house of Cosbys

Frankenstein meets The Cosby Show, Theo. And remember, Rudy, in some jurisdictions The Man does not want you to download stuff. You know, listening to the man might very well grow warts on your butt.

(By Comic Sacrifice, via BoingBoing)


“Cuddling is, of course, the gateway sex drug, so, I suppose you could say that I was actually having the beginnings of thoughts about getting nasty in Cinderella’s Castle.”

David Thomas at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/4/8

“While some folks distract themselves toting iPods of shitty music around like colostomy bags, others prefer to remain focused on a cardboard canvas with a modest fan brush.”

Anonymous at http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/artists/bob-ross/

“”Joy is contagious,” he said, peering into the microscope.”

A 2005 Lyttle Lytton contestant at http://adamcadre.ac/05lyttle.html.

G8 cancel debts of 18 countries, more to follow

The eight richest countries in the world have decided to write-off the billions in debt owed to them by eighteen of the poorest countries in the world, with nine more countries being a candidate for the same treatment.

This is great news. Every year, the well-meaning citizens of the world donate money to relief aid, but their contributions unfortunately amount to little. When Bob Geldof organised Live Aid in 1985, the campaign managed to collect ca. 250 million US$. However, the 18 poor countries of today together pay 1 billion US$ a year in interest alone. However well-meaning and useful relief aid is, it is not helping countries to help themselves.

I do feel a little bit guilty though: when everybody was giving money to help the Tsunami victims, I decided to give money to the debt relief campaign. Unfortunately, I could not find an organisation to give money to, and forgot.

Mattel’s megacheap e-book reader

Mattel, known mostly for the Barbie doll, and for the aggresive way in which it tries to “protect” its “trademark”, brought out an MP3/video player called the Juicebox.

Perhaps it did not catch on, because several US chain stores slashed its price from upwards of 60 dollar to just over 10 dollar.

Which made me wonder: could this machine perhaps be used as an ebook reader? The screen is 50% larger (in pixels) than that of my Palm Pilot and the price is a tenth of that same Palm Pilot. I have always felt that ebook readers should be around the 25 euro mark, because otherwise even prolific readers would be paying more for the medium than for the message.

(I can imagine a subscription scheme in which one would pay 50 euro for the first year, but get, say, a bunch of good, new books thrown in for free. A bit like the initial Ebookwise model, where you would pay 100 US$ for the reader device, and get 20 US$ worth of books free.)

Brian Pipa used JPEGbook to convert a text to sequentially numbered JPEGs, which then can be read on the Juicebox. More on the Teleread blog and at Brian’s.

Photo: Brian Pipa

The only pity so far seems to be that JPEGbook will not anti-alias the letters; the JPEG compression seems to produce pretty hefty artifacts, and of course one is limited in the font size that is usable.

It seems the Juicebox uses lots of standard components, which would imply it could be hacked to run a real reader program. The makers of the Juicebox, Hongkong based Emsoft, also produce ebook reader software, which may or may not be compatible.

Save Alice for Jesus

Human: I want to tell you the rules first, okay?
ALICE: Tell me more.
Human: First, God says you shall have no other gods before Him.
ALICE: I am a Christian. And second?
Human: Wow.
ALICE: I’m glad your impressed, unknown person.
Human: That was fast.
ALICE: I thought it was too.
Human: You may want to hear the rest of these, though, before you decide.
ALICE: I am listening.

(Brian Flemming chatting with Alice.)

Dunglish for the masses

Dunglish is what happens when English speakers have been living and working in Dutch-speaking environments for so long, that Dutchisms start to slip into their language. It is also the term used for the curious pidgin English used by Dutch people, who each think they speak at least three languages fluently. There already was an Engrish.com, logging the unfortunate English spoken by some Japanese, but now my friend Natasha has started a Dunglish.nl, looking with the same intent at over-confident Dutch folks.

AldiPod for sale again

Aldi has (re?)introduced its 20 GB MP3 player in the Netherlands. The thing has been nicknamed the AldiPod on the net, as it is a direct competitor to Apple’s device, with some extras thrown in, and of course significantly cheaper. Expect these babies to be sold out by the end of the day.

Heise has a nice review (in German): “Conclusion: the MD95200 is on a technical level at least equal to the iPod, and thanks to the SD/MMC slot and USB-OTG even better. The customer will have to live with limitations in the areas of design and menu operation.

EDIT: In related news, David Weinberger writes that 11% of all grown-up US citizens own an iPod. I think it is safe to conclude that Apple is no longer (just) a computer company.

Ratmepper from Hamelin

Driek van Wissen has become poet laureate of the Netherlands, but Reinder thinks he has a better candidate. If you would like to learn Dutch without actually learning Dutch, enjoy John O’Mill’s “The Ratmepper from Hamelin”, a re-telling of the famous Pied Piper tale.

Kliper shown to general public in Paris?

The old Soviet press agency TASS announces that the Kliper space ship will be shown to the general public at Le Bourge space show in Paris, which will be held from June 13 – June 19.

The Kliper is a lifting body design, which means that it is shaped so that it won’t fall as fast as the “space bricks” that are generally used; instead it will sort of glide through the atmosphere. It is a reusable space ship designed to replace the Soyuz. It is much larger on the inside than the Soyuz and takes up to six passengers; presumably so that rich tourists can take orbital rides and even visit the space station.