Cleaning with spit, and now with pillars and pancakes

Last month human saliva got its due, with the awarding of the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry, as an effective agent to clean surfaces. This month, pillars and pancakes are served up as an effective way to pattern surfaces so that those surfaces will be self-cleaning. Pillar/pancake details are in the new study “Pillars […]

New, tail-swinging research from the urination-duration lab

Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu and colleagues published a new study investigating why elephants and other tail-swinging mammals swing their tails. Specifically, they looked at how (and how well) tail-swinging repels insects. The new study is: “Mammals Repel Mosquitoes With Their Tails,” Marguerite E. Matherne, Kasey Cockerill, Yiyang Zhou, Mihir Bellamkonda, David L. Hu, Journal […]

Physics Breakthough: Snapping a Spaghetti Strand Into 2 (Not 3!) Pieces

BREAKING NEWS! WITH A SURPRISING TWIST! Spaghetti—dry spaghetti—again feeds the intellectual fervor of physicists. Five physicists serve up a surprising new study about an old question about bending a strand past its breaking point: “Controlling Fracture Cascades Through Twisting and Quenching,” Ronald H. Heisser, Vishal P. Patil, Norbert Stoop, Emmanuel Villermaux, and Jörn Dunkel, Proceedings […]

A Black Hole in a Bathtub, More or Less [research study]

One can find dense, dark understanding in a bathtub, if one is a physicist. This new study provides an example: “Black Hole Quasibound States from a Draining Bathtub Vortex Flow,” Sam Patrick, Antonin Coutant, Maurício Richartz, and Silke Weinfurtner, Physical Review Letters, vol. 121, nos. 6-10, 2018, 061101. The authors, at the University of Nottingham, […]

Ig-Nobel-winning Peter Principle paper remains Physica A’s most popular

“That paper, published in Elsevier’s Physica A, remains the most popular of any paper in the journal on social media, according to the data analytics company Altmetric…. In September 2010, the paper also won the Ig Nobel Prize for Management, and after that it became increasingly popular.” So says the journal’s publisher, also saying: in […]

Modelling heat loss from a semi-spherical cow udder

Theoretical physicists are sometimes accused of making over-simplifications for mathematical models. This has lead to many variations on the spherical cow story, where a physicist claims to be able to cure a sick cow, but only if it is a spherical cow in a vacuum. Oddly, most iterations of this tale ignore heat radiated from […]

Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep Over Various Surfaces

“An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces” is a research study that won the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize in physics for its co-authors — Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams, of Australia. John Culvenor, one of the authors, has just boarded an airplane (that’s him, there, […]