Ig Nobels celebrate ponytail math, shut up gun

The latest honorees for science gone wild include researchers who analyzed why leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller.

Koji Tsukada shows off his tongue-tying sound machine, the Speech Jammer. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

If you've ever wondered what makes your ponytail sway from side to side, you're not alone. Researchers who unraveled the mysterious math behind human ponytails have been recognized with an Ig Nobel prize for their contribution to science.

As I predicted they would back in February, Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball took home the humorous accolade for their study in Physical Review Letters, which describes a hairy equation governing locks.

The Ig Nobels are handed out in a ceremony at Harvard University and honor research that first makes you laugh, and then makes you think.

Japan's infamous Speech Jammer gun took home the Ig Nobel prize in acoustics.

Developed by Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada, it disrupts a person's speech by making them hear what they've said with a slight delay. The duo demoed it onstage at the awards ceremony, but it seemed to have no effect on a recitation of Shakespeare by Nobel chemistry prize winner Dudley Herschbach.

Nobel laureates help hand out the awards at the Ig Nobel ceremony, which is a mix of theatrics, music, and comedy.

Among the other 2012 Ig winners were Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan, and Tulio Guadalupe for a study entitled "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller." It took the Psychology Prize.

The Medicine Prize went to Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti for "advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode."

A paper entitled "Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?" earned the Ig Nobel Fluid Dynamics Prize for Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer.

The only winner that did not send a representative to the ceremony was the U.S. Government General Accountability Office. It was honored with the Ig Nobel Literature Prize for issuing "a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports."

I hope they wrote a report of that somewhere.

 

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