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Ig® Nobel Limericks: Promotion, Ignition, Spaghetti

Ig Nobel Achievements distilled into limerick form
by Martin Eiger, Improbable Research Limerick Laureate

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think. For details of all the Ig Nobel Prize–winning achievements, see each year’s special Ig Nobel issue of the magazine, and also see a list at the website.

2010 Ig Nobel Prize in Management

The prize was awarded to Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

[REFERENCE: “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467-72.]

We had competent people.
We canned ’em.
We promoted our dumbest in tandem.
It worked out not so good.
It turns out that we should
Have done all our promotions at random.

1996 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The prize was awarded to George Goble of Purdue University, for his blistering world record time for igniting a barbeque grill: three seconds, using charcoal and liquid oxygen.

Goble Lights a Grill with liquid oxygen.

(YouTube link)

A bummer last summer: I threw
A barbecue.  But what to do
When the grill wouldn’t light?
It worked out all right
With some charcoal and liquid O2.

2006 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics

The prize was awarded to Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.

[REFERENCE: “Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in Half,” Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, Physical Review Letters, vol. 95, no. 9, August 26, 2005, p. 95505-1.]

Here is a challenge for you.
Try to break dry spaghetti in two,
   Not in three parts or four,
   Not in five parts or more,
Only two.  Why is this hard to do?

Space-time diagram, in rescaled coordinates, of the breaking events obtained by repeating the experiment of Fig. 3 (data points) for different pasta radii and initial curvatures 0.


This article is republished with permission from the July-August 2011 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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