September 18th 2014

Scottish referendum takes place –
Scotland independence referendum takes place with the result looking very uncertain. Tennis player Andy Murray used Twitter to back the Yes vote along with actor Sean Connery. Those backing the No vote and wanting Scotland to remain part of the UK include Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Mick Jagger, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, comedian Eddie Izzard, actresses Helena Bonham-Carter and Dame Judi Dench, Simon Cowell, and Stephen Hawking all of whom signed a letter urging Scotland to stay in the union. The result will be known tomorrow.
Andy-Murray-independence-tweetAndy Murray tweet.

Ig Nobel prizes announced –
The annual Ig Nobel prizes awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research have picked out some classic scientific investigations again. Researchers who measured the slipperiness of banana peels, why pork strips appear to stop nosebleeds, and how reindeer react to humans in polar bear suits were among the winners.

September 17, 2015

Top News Stories –

‘Universal urination duration’ wins Ig Nobel prize –
A study showing that nearly all mammals take the same amount of time to urinate has been awarded one of the 2015 Ig Nobel prizes at Harvard University. These spoof Nobels for “improbable research” are in their 25th year.
The team behind the urination research, from Georgia Tech, won the physics Ig. Using high-speed video analysis, they modelled the fluid dynamics involved in urination and discovered that all mammals weighing more than 3kg empty their bladders over about 21 seconds. Run by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, this is a jubilantly irreverent affair. It has become world famous for recognising scientific achievements that “make people laugh, and then think”. This year’s Ig winners travelled from six continents to accept their trophies. The triumphant research included a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg, and the discovery that the word “huh?” occurs in every human language. [BBC] See List of the Day

Valcke’s reign at FIFA likely to be at an end –
For the second time in his career, Jerome Valcke leaves FIFA with a cloud hanging over him. Sepp Blatter’s lieutenant for the past eight years, Valcke became the highest profile figure in the corruption-plagued organization to fall during the current series of scandals when he was “released from his duties” on Thursday and it appears unlikely he will return. The Frenchman has not been formally dismissed but Blatter is standing down in February and Valcke had already suggested he would probably go at that time as well. The 54-year-old, however, is now being investigated by FIFA’s ethics committee after allegations he was involved in a plan to re-sell 2014 World Cup tickets for a lucrative profit. [Reuters]

Sperm banks attract customers by offering them enough cash to buy a new iPhone –
Chinese sperm banks have been saying that there is no need to sell a kidney to afford an iPhone, just your bodily fluids. Renji Hospital in Shanghai is one among several facilities offering enough money to buy an iPhone if men donate sperm. The hospital wrote in an online posting: “No need to sell your kidneys – you can easily have a 6s,” which refers to cases where people actually sold their organs to be able to afford Apple products. The advert says that if a man passes a health test and then regularly donates his sperm, he can earn enough money to purchase an iPhone. This amounts to 6,000 yuan (£610) which is enough to buy the new iPhone 6s. [Daily Telegraph]

Video of the Day –

Does Your School Matter? – ASAP Science

List of the Day –

Winners of the Ig Awards 2015 [BBC]

Chemistry – Callum Ormonde (University of Western Australia) and colleagues, for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.

Physics – Patricia Yang (Georgia Institute of Technology, US) and colleagues, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

Literature – Mark Dingemanse (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands) and colleagues, for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language – and for not being quite sure why.

Management – Gennaro Bernile (Singapore Management University) and colleagues, for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that – for them – had no dire personal consequences.

Economics – The Bangkok Metropolitan Police (Thailand) for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.

Medicine – joint award: Hajime Kimata (Kimata Hajime Clinic, Japan) and also Jaroslava Durdiaková (Comenius University, Slovakia) and her collagues, for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).

Mathematics – Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer (University of Vienna, Austria) for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.

Biology – Bruno Grossi (University of Chile) and colleagues, for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

Diagnostic medicine – Diallah Karim (Stoke Mandeville Hospital, UK) and colleagues, for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.

Physiology and entomology – Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt (Southwest Biological Institute, US) for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith (Cornell University, US), for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

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