Friday, October 2, 2009

Assume a Perfectly Spherical Woman

No, that wouldn't actually be anyone I know. It's a little like that Perfectly Frictionless Ice that they keep asking you about in physics class--it doesn't exist in the real world, but assuming it does actually allows you to solve the math problem.

Well, I'm not sure this counts as an end to my months-long blogging hiatus, but I thought I'd pass along a bit of a Public Service Announcement:

The 2009 Ig Nobel awards have been announced! This is usually the scientific highlight of my year, and this year has some good ones. Perhaps not as good as last years study of how the analysis of archaeology sites--and our reconstruction of ancient history--can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo, but pretty good nonetheless:

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine...

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano...

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism...
And here is the one that inspired the title of this post:
PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature...
You know, I've always kinda wondered about that myself. I suppose I'd just assumed their physics resembled those of those old Weebles toys from way back when I was a kid.

For obvious reasons, there are some fun pictures at the Ig Nobel site (and elsewhere, all over the 'net) of this last one being demonstrated:
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.”
Well, of course you need two. After all, only half the population is female...


As I said, I'm not sure this post heralds the end of my blogging hiatus. I actually like having that extra time in the evenings to do stuff. And I am doing stuff! Some time, of course, is spent doing the chainmaille that will become the Adrenaline Junkie's Halloween costume (which is shaping up to be totally awesome); but I also started up an exercise routine about last May or so, that has knocked about 10% off my weight. And it has just been plain nice to be able to sit around and not worry about whether I needed to get online to feed the beast tonight.

But I'll eventually get around to that post on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems I've been meaning to do for aeons.