HULA-HOOPS IS FUN FOR KIDS =
CURE SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITIONS
FISH FART = CELL PHONE FOR FISH
The dynamics of keeping Hula-Hoops swinging around your waist and the
mysteries of fish fart have brought laugh-filled honours to three Canadian
The three were to be honoured last night at the annual Ig Nobel Prize
ceremony in Boston. The prizes are given annually by a group loosely associated
with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for
research that "first makes people laugh and then makes them think."
While the Ig Nobels started in 1991 as a satiric take on dumb things in
science (Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, was awarded the first
Ig Nobel Peace Prize), the awards are generally seen by the scientific community
as a light-hearted but positive achievement.
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Canadian Globe & Mail report how you can be
a scientist who seriously can make people laugh and think seriously.....
Canadian scientists honoured for research
that's a light-hearted look at real problems
By STEPHEN STRAUSS
Canadian Globe & Mail:
Friday, October 1, 2004 - Page A8
Ramesh Balasubramanian, a professor of human kinetics at the University of
Ottawa, is a co-winner in the physics category, for a paper exploring and
explaining the dynamics of Hula-Hooping.
"What we show is how the complex physics of the hoop can be balanced by very
simple strategies of the nervous system," he said in an interview from Ottawa.
Prof. Balasubramanian said the dynamics of how a user can keep a Hula-Hoop in
motion around the waist could prove helpful in research into a number of medical
conditions, including strokes, in which the body's balancing mechanism fails.
"Understanding how the body keeps a Hula-Hoop up may help us understand how to
compensate for these failings," he explained.
In the biology category, the use of flatulence by herrings to communicate with
one another won honours for Ben Wilson, a professor of zoology at the University
of British Columbia, and Lawrence Dill, a professor of behavioural ecology at
Simon Fraser University, in conjunction with three European scientists. The
phenomenon, which the B.C. researchers labeled the Fast Repetitive Tick, is
created by air bubbles emerging from herrings. The researchers aren't sure what
the fish are doing, but are exploring the possibility that the sound of
flatulence can be heard only by other herrings and functions as a communication
frequency that herring enemies, such as salmon, can't tap into.
The general light-heartedness of the Ig Nobel ceremonies (if acceptance speeches
went on too long, a young girl was positioned on stage to announce, "Please
stop, I'm bored") was applied to the Canadian accomplishments. The Hula-Hooping
prize was celebrated by a middle-aged hoop champion attempting to show a group
of Nobel Prize winners how to swing their plastic like a pro. The flatulent fish
were to "speak" for themselves from audio recordings Prof. Wilson made of them.
While the Ig Nobels started in 1991 as a satiric take on dumb things in science
(Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, was awarded the first Ig Nobel
Peace Prize), the awards are generally seen by the scientific community as a
light-hearted but positive achievement.
The awards don't carry monetary prizes.
"In the beginning I thought this was a dubious honour, but short of winning a
Nobel Prize, I can't imagine getting more publicity," Prof. Balasubramanian
Canadian scientists, who have won eight previous Ig Nobels, have an impressive
track record. According to Marc Abrahams, publisher of the Annals of Improbable
Research, who dreamed up the awards, "Canada is more than pulling its weight in
terms of Ig Nobels -- on per-capita basis, it is way up near the top of winning
And why would that be?
"It is not that Canadians try to be different," he suggested, "it just doesn't
occur to them that there is no reason not to be."