Today I Learned…

…from my boss (via her “contacts” in the military) that the phrase “Roger that” is only actually ever said facetiously.  As in, “Participate in the Charge of the Light Brigade? Roger that.”

Can anyone with authority confirm or deny this?

Today I Learned…

…that someone went ahead and did it.  They made a flash game where you can throw shoes at still-President Bush.


…I also learned that in the ten-year period from 1997 to 2007 over 1,000 new species were discovered in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.  NOTICE: If you are freaked out by pictures and descriptions of bugs, I wouldn’t click on this link to the CNN story.  The species included 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals (including a rat which was believed to be extinct for over 11 million years), four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad.

Today I Learned…

…the winners of the 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes!  These were announced early last month, but I had forgotten about them.  So when I stumbled on tonight I realized that I had to post the winners in case any of you out there in blagland haven’t seen it yet!  They are as follows (c/p from above site):

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Massimiliano Zampini. unable to attend the ceremony, was presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the Genoa Science Festival.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: “The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Urs Thurnherr, member of the committee.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach,” Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: “A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835),” M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Marie-Christine Cadiergues and Christel Joubert, unable to attend the ceremony, were presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the Genoa Science Festival.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..
REFERENCE: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: “Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism,” Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that professional lap dancers earn higher tips when they are ovulating.
REFERENCE: “Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?” Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String,” Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 42, October 16, 2007, pp. 16432-7.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
REFERENCE: “Effect of ‘Coke’ on Sperm Motility,” Sharee A. Umpierre, Joseph A. Hill, and Deborah J. Anderson, New England Journal of Medicine, 1985, vol. 313, no. 21, p. 1351.
REFERENCE: “The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola,” C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang, Human Toxicology, vol. 6, no. 5, September 1987, pp. 395-6. [NOTE: THE JOURNAL LATER CHANGED ITS NAME. NOW CALLED “Human & experimental toxicology”]
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Deborah Anderson, and C.Y. Hong’s daughter Wan Hong

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.”
REFERENCE: “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations,” David Sims, Organization Studies, vol. 26, no. 11, 2005, pp. 1625-40.

Today I Learned…

…that I can recognize an episode of Lost by four words and four words only.  I leave this as an exercise to the reader: “Color preference?” “Standard black.”

…also that these four kids in Montana played an awesome prank on their school.  They released three goats in their school, with the numbers 1, 2, and 4 painted on their sides.

Today I Learned…

…that Queen’s University Belfast will be offering a new course this year centered around the psychology and philosophy of the Jedi Knights in order to foster personal development and teach communication skills.  From Slashdot: “The course ‘Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way’…[also] promises to explore ‘wider issues behind the Star Wars universe, like balance, destiny, dualism, fatherhood and fascism.'”

Add that to the list along with the UF Survivor class of things that I’d love to take and would then be ashamed about.

P.S.: Below is a video of Keith Olbermann’s “special comment” on 9/11(TM).  My condolences go out, as they do every year, to all those affected by the WTC attacks.  Could it really have been seven years ago?

Today I Learned…

…about the Dunning-Kruger effect.  Justin Kruger and David Dunning of my hometown Cornell University were awarded a 2000 Ig Nobel prize for their research into this particular phenomenon. They found that people who are less skillful at a particular task tend to think they are more skillful then they are, while people who have more knowledge and skills tend to think that they know less.

If you’re unaware of the Ig Nobel prizes, check them out below.  The scientific community (myself included) always looks forward to their being awarded in October of each year — at least, those members of the community with a sense of humor.  They are given for research “that makes you laugh, then makes you think.”

Further Reading…