Anyone who enjoys the Ig Nobel Prizes – which spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology by making them laugh and then making them think – may like The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). An enthusiastically nerdy science humor magazine, the publication offers readers the opportunity to read about new and improbable things every other month.
During its 21-year history, AIR has covered a variety of topics, including:
- The Taxonomy of Barney. “In February 1994, we observed on television an animal which was there identified as a dinosaur, Barney. Its behavioral characteristics suggested that it was dissimilar to the diverse dinosaurian faunas that are so well documented…To test the hypothesis that Barney is a reptile descended from the true dinosaurs, we went into the field in order to capture and study a living specimen. This we accomplished with remarkable ease, as Barney was advertised to be appearing at a local shopping mall.”
- Horse Calculus. “The idea is that a heart is like a little battery, pushing weak electric currents in a three-dimensional pattern round the body…During each heartbeat, the vector (tip of the arrow) draws a loop – the heart loop – whose shape is a powerful diagnostic of health. Therefore it is useful to measure this loop…His specific question was: does the theory apply to a real horse or only to an ideal cylindrical horse…The moral of this is that applications of mathematical knowledge can be unexpected; you may find yourself taking a surface integral over a horse.”
- Which Feels Heavier – A Pound of Lead or a Pound of Feathers? “Which weighs more – a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?” The seemingly naive answer to the familiar riddle is the pound of lead. The correct answer, of course, is that they weigh the same amount. We investigated whether the naive answer to the riddle might have a basis in perception. When blindfolded participants hefted a pound of lead and a pound of feathers each contained in boxes of identical size, shape, and mass, they reported that the box containing the pound of lead felt heavier at a level above chance.”
Lurking beneath the unusual is some potentially useful scientific research. Just remember that investing your money isn’t a science. It’s a discipline. If you’re thinking about establishing a simple investment program, you’ll find some helpful guidance in Chapter 26 of my book Mindful Money: Simple Practice for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Being a scientist is like being an explorer. You have this immense curiosity, this stubbornness, this resolute will that you will go forward no matter what other people say.”
–Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
http://www.improbable.com/ig/ (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/06-05-17_Improbable-About_the_Ig-Footnote_6.pdf)
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i1/barney.htm (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/06-05-17_Improbable-The_Taxonomy_of_Barney-Footnote_7.pdf)
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume16/v16i4/Horse_calculus.pdf (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/06-05-17_Improbable-Horse_Calculus-Footnote_8.pdf)
http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume20/v20i5/Feathers-Research-Review-20-5.pdf (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/06-05-17_Improbable-Feathers_Research_Review-Footnote_9.pdf)