by Simon Sharwood

The annual Ig Nobel Prizes were handed out on Thursday night, as always “honoring achievements that make people laugh, then think”.

Among this year’s winners were “Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird.” Foster turned that research into a book, Being a Beast, in which he “set out to know the ultimate other: the non-humans, the beasts.” That effort saw him live “… alongside badgers for weeks, sleeping in a sett in a Welsh hillside and eating earthworms, learning to sense the landscape through his nose rather than his eyes.”

Foster’s Oxford University bio says he’s “a Fellow of Green Templeton College, a Senior Research Associate at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, a Research Associate at the the Ethox and HeLEX Centres, (at at the University of Oxford), and a practising barrister.” Foster shared the Biology Prize with Thomas Thwaites, who created “prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.”

Volkswagen won the Chemistry prize “for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.”

The Psychology Prize went to the authors of a paper titled “From Junior to Senior Pinocchio: A Cross-Sectional Lifespan Investigation of Deception” that the Ig Nobel committee summarised as “asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.”

Japanese researchers won the Perception Prize for research titled “Perceived size and Perceived Distance of Targets Viewed From Between the Legs: Evidence for Proprioceptive Theory”, while a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” took out the Peace Prize.

The Ig Nobels are misunderstood as deriding rubbish science, but are actually about celebrating how even seemingly-obscure science gets us thinking. As the awards’ backer, Improbable Research, point out:

Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; So can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.

The full list of winners is here: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/

Winners reportedly took home Ten Trillion Dollars, sadly Zimbabwe dollars, or about US$0.40.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/23/pretending_to_be_a_badger_wins_oxford_don_10_trillion_dollars/

A new app makes finding friends in the school cafeteria a piece of cake.

“Sit With Us” helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit locate a welcoming group in the lunchroom.

The app allows students to designate themselves as “ambassadors,” thereby inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, which signal to anyone seeking company that they’re invited to join the ambassadors’ table.

Natalie Hampton, a 16-year-old from Sherman Oaks, California, is the designer of Sit With Us, which launched on September 9. She was inspired to create it after she ate alone her entire seventh grade year, she told LA Daily News. The situation left Hampton feeling vulnerable and made her a target for bullying.

Hampton, now a junior, is attending a different school and is thriving socially. Yet, the memory of sitting alone and being bullied still haunts her, especially since she knows her experience isn’t an isolated one.

Hampton told Audie Cornish on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that the reason why she felt an app like this was necessary is because it prevents kids from being publicly rejected and being considered social outcasts by their peers.

“This way it’s very private. It’s through the phone. No one else has to know,” she explained to Cornish. “And you know that you’re not going to be rejected once you get to the table.”

Hampton might be on to something even more, especially since she’s asking fellow students to take the stand against bullying.

When students ― especially the “cool kids” ― stand up to bullying, it has a significant impact, according to a study conducted by Princeton, Rutgers and Yale University. During a 2012-2013 school year, over 50 New Jersey middle schools provided their most socially competent students with social media tools and encouragement to combat bullying, and saw a reduction in student conflict reports by 30 percent.

Hampton told All Things Considered that since she launched the app last week, she’s already getting positive feedback from her peers.

“People are already posting open lunches at my school,” she told the program. “So I’m very excited that things are already kicking off with a great start.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teen-creates-app-sit-with-us-open-welcoming-tables-lunch-bullying_us_57c5802ee4b09cd22d926463

By Ben Westcott

A conversation between dolphins may have been recorded by scientists for the first time, a Russian researcher claims.

Two adult Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, named Yasha and Yana, didn’t interrupt each other during an interaction taped by scientists and may have formed words and sentences with a series of pulses, Vyacheslav Ryabov says in a new paper.

“Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people,” Ryabov said.

Joshua Smith, a research fellow at Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, says there will need to be more research before scientists can be sure whether dolphins are chatting.

“I think it’s very early days to be drawing conclusions that the dolphins are using signals in a kind of language context, similar to humans,” he told CNN.

There are two different types of noises dolphins use for communication, whistles and clicks, also known as pulses.

Using new recording techniques, Ryabov separated the individual “non coherent pulses” the two dolphins made and theorized each pulse was a word in the dolphins’ language, while a collection of pulses is a sentence.

“As this language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins,” he said in the paper, which was published in the St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal: Physics and Mathematics last month.

“Their language can be ostensibly considered a high developed spoken language.”

In his paper, Ryabov calls for humans to create a device by which human beings can communicate with dolphins.

“Humans must take the first step to establish relationships with the first intelligent inhabitants of the planet Earth by creating devices capable of overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of … communications between dolphins and people,” he said.

Smith said while the results were an exciting advance in the under-researched field of dolphin communication, the results first needed to be replicated in open water environments.

“If we boil it down we pretty much have two animals in an artificial environment where reverberations are a problem … It wouldn’t make much sense for animals (in a small area) to make sounds over each other because they wouldn’t get much (sonar) information,” he said.

“It would be nice to see a variety of alternate explanations to this rather than the one they’re settling on.”

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/13/europe/dolphin-language-conversation-research/index.html

bors_bannedbooks

By Perry Stein

If you enter just the right business or library this month, you may stumble upon a hidden book that was censored or challenged at one point. And if you find it, it’s yours for the keeping.

The D.C. public library system is hiding several hundred copies of books — which were once banned or challenged — in private businesses throughout all eight wards to celebrate Banned Books Week. The “UNCENSORED banned books” scavenger hunt kicked off Sept. 6 and will run through the month.

Each book is wrapped in a cover that explains why that book was banned or challenged. For example, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” will say “Anti-White” because in 1963, parents of high school students in Columbus, Ohio, asked the school board to ban the novel for being “anti-white.”

Other challenged or banned books included in the scavenger hunt: “The Color Purple,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “A Separate Peace,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Native Son.”

D.C. public libraries will dole out clues about the books’ whereabouts on its social media accounts throughout the month with the hashtag #UncensoredDC. People who find a book are encouraged to post a picture of it on social media with that hashtag.

Winners at least 21 years old have a chance to win free tickets to “UNCENSORED: The Cocktail Party” as part of a fundraiser for the D.C. Public Library Foundation.

The city’s library system will host banned-book-related events at 25 neighborhood libraries throughout the month.

“This year’s theme is ‘Diversity,’ which will celebrate literature written by diverse writers that has been banned or challenged, as well as explore why diverse books are being disproportionately singled out,” the library system wrote in a release explaining the festivities. “It’s estimated that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color, or contain events and issues concerning diverse communities, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.”

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By Richa Malhotra

Keep calm and carry on building. That’s the motto of 100,000 or so wood ants stranded without food in a nuclear bunker until they starve.

Wood ants (Formica polyctena) typically build a cosy mound nest on the forest floor. They seek out the sugary secretions of aphids living on trees and supplement their diet with insects. Now, scientists have uncovered a population of wood ants that has sustained for years without food and light inside a bunker where temperatures are constantly low.

The ant population was discovered in 2013 by a group of volunteers counting bats overwintering in the bunker, which is part of an abandoned Soviet nuclear base near Templewo in western Poland.

Later, Wojciech Czechowski at the Museum and Institute of Zoology in Warsaw, Poland, and his colleagues, entered the bunker to study the ants more closely. They noticed that the wood ants had built a nest on the terracotta floor of the bunker – right below a ventilation pipe. Looking up through the five-metre-long pipe, they realised where the bunker ants come from.

A 60-centimetre-high wood ant nest sits on the forest floor directly on top of the ventilation pipe outlet. But because the metal cap over the ventilation pipe has rusted, ants can fall through from time to time.

It’s a one-way journey for any ant that falls into the bunker. They can scale its 2.3-metre-high walls but Czechowski and his colleagues realised that – for some reason – the ants never walk across the bunker ceiling and so are unable to reach the ventilation pipe to make it back home.

So, how did they respond? “These ants gathered together and did what ants do,” says Terry McGlynn, an entomologist at the California State University Dominguez Hills, who was not involved in the study. “They built a nest and eked out an existence.”

Today that nest covers most of the floor of a chamber that measures three metres by one metre.

Czechowski and his colleagues have looked for evidence of a food source that the bunker ants could use, but haven’t found one yet. Rather, the ants seemed to be doomed to starve to death in pitch-blackness. They found ant corpses carpeting the bunker floor in layers a few centimetres thick and estimated the number of dead ants to be about two million.

Without any food, the individual bunker ants are probably dying at a rate faster than at the surface, the researchers think. But because there is a steady stream of new arrivals falling into the bunker, the colony has grown to a reasonable size.

This explains one of the unusual features of this nest. When the researchers dug into it to look for an ant brood they found none – no larvae, pupae or empty cocoons. The “colony” was queenless and lacked any males. This fits with the idea that it is no ordinary nest, but a strange nest-like structure that the worker population has instinctively built.

“This is kind of fascinating that such a huge non-productive nest could exist on its own, built solely from the ants that got trapped in the bunker,” McGlynn says.

Journal reference: Journal of Hymenoptera Research, DOI: 10.3897/jhr.51.9096

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2104632-ants-trapped-in-nuclear-bunker-are-developing-their-own-society/


Robert Morin graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1961, and he had a passion for books and movies.

by Mary Jo DiLonardo

Robert Morin spent nearly 50 years working as a librarian on the campus of his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Because he was known to live simply, few at the Durham university knew that the long-time employee had amassed a $4 million estate. Morin died in March 2015, but this week the school announced he had left his fortune to the university.

“Bob’s demonstrated commitment to UNH through his philanthropy is tremendously inspiring,” university President Mark Huddleston said in a statement. “His generous gift allows us to address a number of university priorities.”

Morin loved movies, and from 1979 to 1997 he watched more than 22,000 videos. After he satisfied his passion for movies, he turned his attention to books, deciding to read — in chronological order — every book published in the United States from 1930 to 1940 except for children’s books, textbooks and books about cooking and technology. When he died at the age of 77, he had gotten as far as 1938, the year he was born.

According to his obituary, his job at the library was to write short descriptions of DVDs, enter ISBN, or International Standard Book Numbers, for CDs, and to catalog books of sheet music.

Morin’s financial advisor, Edward Mullen, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that his client was able to accumulate so much wealth because he rarely spent money. He drove an older vehicle and ate frozen dinners.

“He never went out,” Mullen said.

In the last year or so of his life, Morin lived in an assisted living facility where he developed a new passion: football. He became an avid fan, watching games on TV, learning the rules of the game along with the names of the players and the teams.

Mullen said Morin chose to give all his savings to his alma mater because he didn’t have any relatives he wanted to leave it to. Morin trusted the university would spend the money wisely for its students.

The only specific request in the donation was $100,000 dedicated to the Dimond Library where Morin worked. The money will “provide scholarships for work-study students, support staff members who continue their studies in library science, and renovate and upgrade one of the library’s multimedia rooms.”

Of the remaining funds, Huddleston said $2.5 million will help launch an expanded and centrally located career center for students and alumni, and $1 million will go toward a video scoreboard at the school’s new football stadium.

http://www.mnn.com/money/personal-finance/stories/librarian-surprises-school-4-million-gift

By Cimaron Neugebauer

A 17-year-old has died after a hickey reportedly took his life, according to a local news outlet in Mexico City, Mexico.

Doctors say the teen began having convulsions while at the dinner table eating with his family in Mexico City. Before dinner, Julio Macias Gonzalez had spent the evening with his 24-year-old girlfriend, who is now in hiding.

Medical professionals believe the suction of the hickey resulted in a blood clot for the teen. Doctors believe the blood clot traveled to his brain and caused the fatal stroke.

This isn’t the first time for a passionate kiss on the neck to land someone in the hospital.

In a 2010 case, was reported in a New Zealand Medical Journal where a 44-year-old woman was rushed to the hospital after losing movement in her arm due to a hickey on her neck, Doctors weren’t sure why the woman was having a stroke, but then noticed a bruise on her neck and realized the suction on a major artery created a blood clot, which traveled to her heart, causing a minor stroke.

http://wlos.com/news/offbeat/teen-dies-after-girlfriend-gives-fatal-hickey-lover-now-on-the-run

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.