February 2022: MINI-AIR: Viruses and Pandemics, Specially

mini-Annals of Improbable Research (“mini-AIR”)

February 2022, issue number 2022-02. ISSN 1076-500X.




  Research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.





02 IN THE MAGAZINE ITSELF: Viruses and Pandemics, Specially 

03 Ken Kant on Conflicts in the Brain

04 LiquiCats & LinguistiWugs Online

05 Dramatic Improbable Readings Online

06 Limerick Challenge: Ken Knott on Setting Time Standards

07 Meaning/Idleness Winner

08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Brian, Wombat, Brains

09 Will Knott on Control Technologies


30 — Subscribe to the Actual Magazine! (*)

31 — How to start or stop receiving this little newsletter (*)

32 — Contact Info (*)

33 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)


Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.



02 IN THE MAGAZINE ITSELF: Viruses and Pandemics, Specially


What you are reading at the moment (mini-AIR)

is overflow detritus from

the magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). 


The special VIRUSES & PANDEMICS issue (vol. 28, no. 2) is out infecting the populace. See the table of contents and selected articles at:



The previous issue, the special ICE CREAM issue (vol. 28, no. 1) of the magazine is of course out there too. See the table of contents and selected articles at <https://improbable.com/publications/magazine/air-vol-28-issue-1/>



or get BACK ISSUES (there are more than 150 of them!):



Tables of Contents: <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>



03 Ken Kant on Conflicts in the Brain


This month’s somewhat randomly selected research report is:


“Influences of amygdala and medial forebrain bundle on self-stimulation in the septum,” Kenneth J. Kant, Physiology and Behavior, vol. 4, no. 5, 1969, pp. 777-784.




04 LiquiCats & LinguistiWugs Online


It did happen, and it’s now archived online: the premiere of a new kind of conversation, in a collaborative series by The Conversation and Improbable Research: Two researchers, in different fields, explore each other’s worlds a little bit:


“(Improbable) Conversation: Physics and Psychology of Cats”, with physicist (and Ig Nobel Prize winner, for exploring the question “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?”) Marc-Antoine Fardin, and psycholinguist (and inventor of the Wug Test) Jean Berko Gleason.


See it at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JbYU-IccwM>



05 Dramatic Improbable Readings Online


Our 2022 Dramatic Improbable Readings session for Arisia also did happen, despite the pandemic that shut down Arisia this year. This one starred Mason Porter, Sonya Taafe, Dean Grodzins, and Gary Dryfoos.


Especially if you have never seen one of our Improbable Dramatic Readings events, savor the recorded video. See it at:



You may be wondering about the name. 


Q: Are these events called ‘Dramatic Improbable Readings’ or ‘Improbable Dramatic Readings’? 


A: Sometimes the one, sometimes the other. We have trouble consistently remembering which is or should be our official name for these things.



06 Limerick Challenge: Ken Knott on Setting Time Standards


This month’s RESEARCH LIMERICK challenge — Devise a pleasing limerick that encapsulates this study:


“An Improved Method for Setting Time Standards for Maintenance Work,” Kenneth Knott and Manuel F. Péna, IIE Transactions 17, no. ,1 1985, pp. 17-24.



Submit your perfectly formed, delightfully enlightening limerick to:



c/o <MARC aaattt IMPROBABLE dddooottt COM>



07 Meaning/Idleness Winner


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


“Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness,” Christopher K. Hsee, Adelle X. Yang and Liangyan Wang, Psychological Science, vol. 21, no. 7, June 2010, pp. 926–930. (Thanks to Jeremy Cook for bringing this to our attention.)



Winning limerickicist DAVID WEINBERGER writes:


The Titan with rock uphill goes.

But his pace noticeably slows.

  No reason for haste

  in a task that’s a waste,

Like towers made out of Legos.


This month’s take from our LIMERICK LAUREATE, MARTIN EIGER:


The conclusions the researchers drew

Are interesting, but are they true?

  The work they did might

  Have gotten it right,

But it sure gave them something to do.



08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Brian, Wombat, Corporate Insecthood


Recent improbable research bits you may have missed…


BLOG: <http://www.improbable.com/>:

  * Brian, a New Typo of Research

  * Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats: When, Where, How Many, Why

  * Corporate Insecthood

  *…and much more







  * Episode 1087: Modes of Cat-Human Communication

  * Episode 1088: Cursing Babinski


FACEBOOK: <http://www.facebook.com/improbableresearch>


TWITTER: @ImprobResearch, @MarcAbrahams, #IgNobel


INSTAGRAM: <https://www.instagram.com/improbable_research/>


PATREON: <www.patreon.com/ImprobableResearch>



09 Will Knott on Control Technologies


This month’s slightly-less-randomly selected research report is:


“Monitoring and control technologies for bioregenerative life support systems/CELSS, William M. Knott and John C. Sager, in Technology 2000: Proceedings of a Conference Held at the Washington Hilton Hotel and Towers, Washington, DC, November 27-28, 1990, vol. 3109, p. 161. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1991.













AAAS Annual Meeting Feb 19, 2022


TEDx IIITA, Allahabad, India April 9, 2022


32nd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Sep 2022


[All live events in 2021 and 2022 are subject to pandemical constraints and adventures.] 


For details and additional events, see





30 — Subscribe to the Actual Magazine! (*)


The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year magazine, 

in PDF form. 

It’s packed with research that makes people laugh, then think.



SUBSCRIPTIONS ($25, for six issues) 

BACK ISSUES ($5 each)


(mini-AIR, the thing you are reading at this moment, is but a tiny, free-floating appendix to the actual magazine.)



31 — How to start or stop receiving this newsletter (*)


This newsletter, Mini-AIR, is just a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the big, bold six-times-a-year magazine Annals of Improbable Research.


To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE to mini-AIR, see the links at the end of this email.


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Twitter: @ImprobResearch



33 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)


EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Kees Moeliker, Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Nan Swift, 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 2022, Annals of Improbable Research