The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")

Issue number 2007-07

July 2007

ISSN 1076-500X

Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the


A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)






2007-07-02 Imminent Events

2007-07-03 What's New in the Magazine

2007-07-04 A Fly Based on a Theory

2007-07-05 Apology to Professor Lester

2007-07-06 Many Say "Mono"

2007-07-07 A Computer Science Approach to the Problem

2007-07-08 Ant-Crowding Poets

2007-07-09 Self-Compatible Daffodil Competition

2007-07-10 Newest Noted Researchers

2007-07-11 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: What's Hot in Shoes

2007-07-12 BLOGLIGHTS: Octopus faith, dirty elections

2007-07-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Snake and rice (and sweet itch)

2007-07-14 Improbable Research Events

2007-07-15 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2007-07-16 Our Address (*)

2007-07-17 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2007-07-18 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)


  Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.


  mini-AIR is

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  Annals of Improbable Research




2007-07-02 Imminent Events



  Tickets for the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony go on sale

  August 1, from the Harvard Box Office.




  The Improbable Australia tour, Aug 20-29, will include

  events in Hobart, Launceston, Smithton and Sydney.

  Details will be posted soon at





2007-07-03 What's New in the Magazine


The July/August issue (vol. 13, no. 4) of the Annals of Improbable Research will be the special What's in Your Head issue. It will appear on subscribers doorsteps any day or week now. Highlights include:


<> "A Rivalry is Joined: Lester vs. Voracek," by Alice Shirell Kaswell. ABSTRACT: Professor David Lester (of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey), who has published almost 2000 scholarly reports, many of them about suicide and most of them brief, now has a young rival. He is Martin Voracek of the University of Vienna.


<> Against Ipecac* --Alice Shirell Kaswell. ABSTRACT: Among doctors, ipecac-the medication with the most enjoyable name to say aloud-has fallen from favor. Here are two reports describing what happened.


<> POEM: “The Fruit Fly (Genotype: nevermore),” by Jennifer Sosnowski. ABSTRACT: This is a poem based on Edgar Allen Poe's original. Unlike Poe's, it ideals with fruit flies and research grants. Like Poe's, it is surprisingly long.


The table of contents is at <>


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or see info at bottom of this newsletter.



2007-07-04 A Fly Based on a Theory


Investigators Sally Shelton passes on news from investigator Robin Leech, who passes on news from an entomologists' discussion:


"Neil Evenhuis described a new species of bee fly (Bombyliidae) from the US Southwest. It is named Phthiria relativitae, n.sp. pronounced Theory O' Relativity."


Dr. Evenhuis is past president of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. This naming is, we are told, unrelated to his no longer being president. Further info about the naming (and a subsequent de-naming) appears in Discover magazine <>.




2007-07-05 Apology to Professor Lester


We apologize to Professor David Lester of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Professor Lester and his voluminous work were the subject of the magazine's special Rivalry issue (vol. 13, no. 3, May/June 2007). Also see <> and <>. We described him as the author of "approximately 1500 published studies."


This week we received a note from Professor Lester. It reads:


  You have to stop "short-changing" me.

  1,000 articles!!!!!!

  I'm over 2200 articles, chapters and books.


  Best wishes,

  David Lester


Hereafter we will try, in our ongoing coverage of Professor Lester's work, to be more accurate. Professor Lester kindly included a list of all his more than 2200 publications. We are trying to find a way to fit this list into a future issue of the magazine. Some reduction in font size may be necessary.




2007-07-06 Many Say "Mono"


Sturm and bombast dominated the voting for what, officially, to call the category of professors who have only one name.


Inspired by the MIT professor named Arvind, the vote offered a choice of these three:


  (A) mono-professor

  (B) uni-professor

  (C) just plain professor-professor


Voters pointed out a problem with (B) uni-professor: the title already exists in many places, usually as an abbreviation for "university professor." Few voted for (C) just plain professor-professor. The winner, now the official name for the breed, is (A) mono-professor. Mono-professors will be listed on the same web page as the professor-professors.


Thus Professor Arvind becomes the first officially recognized mono-professor.


The second is Professor Professor Kinshuk, of whom we learned in the following note:



I'd like to point out a known mono-prof, Professor Kinshuk (, formerly in New Zealand, now in Canada.  Kinshuk genuinely has only the one name, which causes no end of trouble in filling out forms.  A friend was once privileged to fly with him on Air New Zealand, and has a wonderful routine describing Kinshuk's interactions with the AirNZ woman as she attempted to fathom that he is Kinshuk, no other name.  Then my friend, Masood Masoodian, stepped up to get his ticket...


Harrumphing in from London came this note from the Poet Hirschorn:



Mono Professor Caveat: Indonesians mostly have only one name, and so expect a flood of nominees. I vote against the whole self-serving idea.




2007-07-07 A Computer Science Approach to the Problem


Complexity can arise almost anywhere. The following note is an example. INVESTIGATOR FREDRIK VIKLAND writes:


Borrowing terms and ideas from name resolution in the C++ programming language, the term "professor professor" can be seen as a shorthand declaration of a professor constructor. The twofold "professor" can be  seen as type specifiers declaring that the two following names are both of the type "professor".


A statement such as "professor professor Fawzy Fawzy" thus tells our brain that there is a professor having Fawzy both as his first and his last name. After this statement, our brain can refer to that professor as "Fawzy", "professor Fawzy", "professor Fawzy Fawzy" or "professor professor Fawzy Fawzy" as appropriate from the context. The closer you are to the professor, and the more professor Fawzys you have to keep in mind at the same time, the more specific you have to be.


Thus, the correct way of naming a single named professor professor, such as Arvind, is:


"professor professor Arvind (void)" or "professor professor (void) Arvind" depending on if you are required to call him by first or last name. Fortunately this only has to be done the first time. The following times, he may be referenced to as "professor Arvind."


The length of the above discussion may give a hint to why computer scientists for a long time have had a relaxed attitued about naming, declaring and calling professors. This is also supported by the fact that Arvind is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering.




2007-07-08 Ant-Crowding Poets


The judges have chosen a winner for last month's Ant-Crowding Competition Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the following study:


  "Optimal Traffic Organization in Ants

  Under Crowded Conditions,"

  A. Dussutour, V. Fourcassié, D. Helbing and

  J.-L. Deneubourg, Nature, 2004, vol. 428, pp. 70–3.


The winner is INVESTIGATOR TONY HARKER, who created a rare limerick about dyslexic ants:


To scientists we just say "scram."

We can't move but don't give a damn.

   There is a cure for it (*)

   But we all ingore it,

For all know that ants love a jam.


  (*) see the report "Optimal Traffic Organization

  in Ants Under Crowded Conditions"


And here is the latest from Limerick Laureate MARTIN EIGER:


Guys from Germany, Belgium, and France

Study traffic congestion with ants.

   Their conclusions provide

   That ants need to collide --

Only then can the traffic advance.


Some of the runner-up limericks are posted at





2007-07-09 Self-Compatible Daffodil Competition


A self-compatible daffodil is the subject of this month's limerick competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that illuminates the nature of this report:


  "Herkogamy and Mating Patterns in the Self-Compatible

  Daffodil Narcissus longispathus," Mónica Medrano,

  Carlos M. Herrera and Spencer C.H. Barrett, Annals of

  Botany, vol. 95, no. 7, 2005, pp. 2005, pp. 1105-11.



RULES: Please make sure your rhymes actually do, and that your poem is in classic, trips-off-the-tongue limerick form.


PRIZE: The winning poet will receive a (if we manage to send it to the correct address) a free, possibly rhomboid issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. Send entries (one entry per entrant) to:



  c/o <marca AT>




2007-07-10 Newest Noted Researchers


New members of The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS):




See them and the other members at: <>


New professor-professors:

  ELSAYED A. ELSAYED, Rutgers University

  OSHITA O. OSHITA, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution

   (IPCR), Abuja, Nigeria.


New mono-professors:

  ARVIND, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  KINSHUK, Athabasca University.

  SUNWOLF, Santa Clara University.


See them and the full list at: <>




2007-07-11 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: What's Hot in Shoes


Each month we select for your special attention a research report that seems particularly worth a close read. This month's pick:


"Effect of Shoe Color on Shoe Temperature and Potential Solar Injury to the Insensate Foot," P.A. DeLuca, W.P. Goforth, Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, vol. 88, no. 7, July 1998, pp. 344-8. The authors, who are at Scott and White Clinic and Memorial Hospital, Temple, Texas, explain what they did:


"The authors compared shoes of different colors in terms of the amount by which their temperature increased when subjected to radiant heat. Three trials of temperature measurements were performed for white and black leather walking shoes. A balloon filled with water was placed in the shoe and the surface temperature of the balloon was measured at baseline and after the shoe had been exposed to an infrared heat lamp for 15- and 30-minute periods. The results were significant: The mean increase in temperature after 15 minutes of exposure was between 4.0 degrees F and 8.8 degrees F greater in the black shoe than in the white shoe."




2007-07-12 BLOGLIGHTS: Octopus faith, dirty elections


Here are some recent topics in our blog:


<> Octopus faith

<> A hard look in quasi-darkness

<> Why you should hire a psychopath

<> LSD as a treatment for autism

<> Dirty old math books hold clue to dirty elections

<> Another hiccup victim goes untreated


and some from the newspaper column in The Guardian:


<> Research: Why does the chicken cross the road?

<> Leaping lizards (feeble-footed variety)

<> Will they, will they, will they accept?


  ... and others


  Read the blog

  every day at <>




2007-07-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Snake and rice (and sweet itch)



"A Smaller Sleeping Bag for a Baby Snake," J. Hstad, S. Linusson, and J. Wastlund, Discrete and Computational Geometry, vol. 26, 2001, pp 173-81. (Thanks to David Molnar for bringing this to our attention.)



"Evaluation of the Optimal Cooking Time of Rice by Using FT-NIR Spectroscopy and an Electronic Nose," N. Sinelli, S. Benedetti, G. Bottega, M. Riva and S. Buratti, Journal of Cereal Science, September 2006, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 137–43. (Thanks to Homer Seywerd for bringing this to our attention.)



"Sweet Itch Research Project," A.D. Wilson and M.J. Day, Veterinary Record, vol. 146, no. 26, June 2000, p. 768. (Thanks to Elizabeth R. Billingham for bringing this to our attention.)




2007-07-14 Improbable Research Events


For details and additional events, see












     LONDON, UK    -- NOV 23, 2007








2007-07-15 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)


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2007-07-16 Our Address (*)


Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA

617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927








2007-07-17 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)


Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.


  ------------- mini-AIRheads -------------

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last

few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson




CO-CONSPIRATORS: Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, S. Drew


AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts


(c) copyright 2007, Annals of Improbable Research




2007-07-18 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)


What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. Mini-AIR is a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine.


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