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

March 2017, issue number 2017-03. ISSN 1076-500X.


  Research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.

      This is a tiny supplement to the magazine

      Annals of Improbable Research.

      Archive at <>





02 Impending Events: Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour

03 In the Magazine Itself: Pre-Faces Otorhinolaryngeal

04 The Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour

05 SPOTLIGHT: The Cigarette Butt and the Song Thrush

06 Cigarette Butt and Urban Bird Limerick Contest

07 Myth-of-Comfort-Food Poet

08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Mug, Dude, Tightening

09 MAY WE RECOMMEND: The Cigarette Butt and the Mosquito


10 Improbable Research Events

11 — How to Get The Magazine (*)

12 — Contact Info (*)

13 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)

14 — How to start or stop receiving mini-AIR (*)


      Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.




02 Impending Events: Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour


      Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour      — March-April 2017

      Skimpy details are below.





03 In the Magazine Itself: Pre-Faces Otorhinolaryngeal


The special FACES issue (vol. 23, no. 2) of the magazine is in prep.


The special SNEEZING, COUGHING, NOSE-BLOWING issue (vol. 23, no. 1) is ready for your inhalation:





      Tables of Contents:     <>




04 The Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour


This year's Ig Nobel Spring Eurotour is near upon us:




— EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland — March 21

— UNIVERSITY OF OSLO, Norway — March 24

— STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY, Stockholm, Sweden — March 27

— KAROLINSKA INSTITUTE, Stockholm, Sweden — March 27

— FRI TANKE F…RLAG, Stockholm, Sweden — March 27

— ORF (television), Vienna, Austria — March 28

— UNIVERSITY OF GRAZ, Austria — March 29



— EDINBURGH, Scotland. Details TBA.


Shows will feature MARC ABRAHAMS (founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) and different combinations of these Ig Nobel Prize winners:


MINNA LYONS (psychopaths and night owls)


KADER ALLOUNI (using speed bumps to diagnose appendicitis)


ELIZABETH OBERZAUCHER (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children)


RAGHAVENDRA RAU (some business leaders acquire a taste for disasters that do not affect them personally)


THOMAS THWAITES (living as a goat)


LUDWIG HUBER (absence of contagious yawning in tortoises)


ALESSANDRO PLUCHINO, ANDREA RAPISARDA, CESARE GAROFALO (organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random)


HYNEK BURDA (defecating dogs align their body axis with EarthÕs north-south geomagnetic field line)


NADIA DOMINICI (walking on water, on the moon)


KEES MOELIKER (homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck)


PIERS BARNES (how many group photos are needed to ensure at least one in which nobody blinks)


FREDRIK SJ…BERG (three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead)


LAURENT BéGUE (people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive)


MARINA DE TOMMASO (measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam)


Additional SURPRISING PERSONS AND THINGS will appear, here and there.


HAIR NOTE: The show at the University of Oslo, on Friday, March 24, will include the public introduction of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) Woman of the Year. [Also: There will be a hair-centric, brief press event earlier that day, in Oslo.]


INCOMPETENCE NOTE: The tour will feature tributes to the Ig Nobel Prize-winning (in the year 2000) study of the Dunning-Kruger effect. That study is called "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing OneÕs Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments."


The Stockholm University show will be livecast.






05 SPOTLIGHT: The Cigarette Butt and the Song Thrush


This month's research spotlight shines on cigaretts and singing birds:


"Cigarette Butts Form a Perceptually Cryptic Component of Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) Nests," Branislav Igic, Phillip Cassey, Peter Samas, Tomas Grim and Mark E. Hauber, Notornis, vol. 56, 2009, pp. 134-138. <> The authors, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, University of Birmingham, UK, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, and Hunter College, City University of New York, USA, report:


"We located several nests of the introduced song thrush (Turdus philomelos) in New Zealand containing discarded cigarette butts.... We used full-spectrum reflectance spectrophotometry, combined with perceptual modelling of the avian visual system to assess the contrast between mud lining, garbage, and the colours of thrush eggs. Our analyses confirmed that, when perceived by birds, cigarette butts were similar in appearance to the nest lining and showed sharp contrast with the eggs."




06 Cigarette Butt and Urban Bird Limerick Contest


This month's challenge —

Devise a pleasing limerick that encapsulates this study:


"Incorporation of Cigarette Butts into Nests Reduces Nest Ectoparasite Load in Urban Birds: New Ingredients for an Old Recipe?" Monserrat Suarez-Rodrõguez, Isabel Lopez-Rull and Constantino Macõas Garcia, Biology Letters, vol. 9, no. 1, 2013, 20120931. <> (Thanks to Berry Pinshow for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the Universidad Nacional Aut—noma de Mˇxico, report:


"There is evidence that some birds living in cities incorporate cigarette butts into their nests, but the effect (if any) of this behaviour remains unclear. Butts from smoked cigarettes retain substantial amounts of nicotine and other compounds that may also act as arthropod repellents. We provide the first evidence that smoked cigarette butts may function as a parasite repellent in urban bird nests."


Submit your perfectly formed, delightfully enlightening limerick to:



      c/o <MARC aaattt IMPROBABLE dddooottt COM>




07 Myth-of-Comfort-Food Poet


The judges have chosen a winner in last month's Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to explain this study:


"The Myth of Comfort Food," Heather Scherschel Wagner, Britt Ahlstrom, Joseph P. Redden, Zata Vickers, and Traci Mann, Health Psychology, vol. 33, no. 12, 2014, pp. 1552-1557. <>


The winner is INVESTIGATOR JOANNE LEARY, who wrote:


Those who cry into their beer

Will find nothing about this to cheer:

  Improvements in mood

  DonÕt depend upon food

Contrary to what you may hear.




When deprethed, in a mournful abyth,

Thertain foodth uthed to bring me sheer blith.

  But no more can I buoy

  My mood with foods chewy.

It seems comfort food is a myth.


[There might have been some caramel on my keyboard.]




08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Mug, Dude, Tightening


Recent improbable research bits you may have missed...


The blog <>:


<> Is it a Mug or Cup? Recent Progress in Fuzziness Studies

<> It's complicated, dude (sociolinguistic investigations)

<> Cultural Meaning of 'Everybody, LetÕs Tighten the Anus'

      ...and lots more



  TWITTER: @ImprobResearch, @MarcAbrahams, #IgNobel




09 MAY WE RECOMMEND: The Cigarette Butt and the Mosquito


"Discarded Cigarette Butts Attract Females and Kill the Progeny of Aedes albopictus," Hamady Dieng, Rahman G.M. Saifur, Abu Hassan Ahmad, Che Salmah Md Rawi, Michael Boots, Tomomitsu Satho, Wan Fatma Zuharah, et al., Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, vol. 27, no. 3, 2011, pp. 263-271. <>




10 Improbable Research Events


For details and additional events, see



Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour            — Mar-Apr 2017

Bahfest, MIT, Cambridge, MA         — Apr 23, 2017

Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Annual Meeting

                                    — Apr 27, 2017

Ig Nobel Ceremony TICKETS go on sale      — Jul, 2017

2017 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony        — Sep 14, 2017

Ig Informal Lectures                — Sep 16, 2017

Ig Nobel Fall EuroTour              — Nov 2017

SLAS Conference, San Diego          — Feb 7, 2018




11 — How to Get The Magazine (*)


The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year magazine, published in PDF form. It's packed with research that makes people laugh, then think. (mini-AIR, the thing you are reading at this moment, is but a tiny, free-floating appendix to the actual magazine.)



      SUBSCRIPTIONS     ($25, for six issues)

      SINGLE ISSUES     ($5 each)






Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)




Cambridge, MA 02138 USA, (+1) 617-491-4437

Twitter: @ImprobResearch




13 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)


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

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Kees Moeliker, Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, Stephen Drew

PROOFREADER: Ambient Happenstance

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


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

(c) copyright 2017, Annals of Improbable Research




14 — How to start or stop receiving mini-AIR (*)


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