Ig Nobel

The awards are in jest, but at the same time they’re not. The Ig Nobel awards have honored the inventors of pink lawn flamingos (yes, they were invented), and other breakthroughs of science. This year: wasabi smoke alarm, procrastination, and apples and oranges. Not to mention the bug that loves to hump a beer bottle.

(I actually started writing this episode a few weeks ago, when commentary on this year’s awards was actually timely, but the partially complete episode has been sitting, waiting for a time when I don’t have anything better to say. Welcome to November.)

This year the august panel that dispenses these awards honored a paper titled “Apples and Oranges: a comparison.” It turns out you can compare the two, and now there’s science to back it up. Keep that in mind next time you’re accused of arguing in bad faith.

In other news, A Japanese team was honored this year for a study of just how much wasabi was the right amount to emit from a smoke detector. Not enough, people don’t wake up and burn to death. Too much, people burn to death while crying their eyes out.

“A wasabi smoke alarm?” I hear you say, “What a waste of science!” The whole thing sounds pretty stupid, until you give your smoke detector to a profoundly deaf person. Wait a minute, this thing is genius. That’s how you win an Ig Nobel. Discoveries that make you laugh, then think.

With a little funding, I think I could rack up a dozen of the damn things.

I’m linking to an article at ars technica, in which the one real breakthrough of the year is taken quite seriously: The theory of structured procrastination. The author postulates that, to be a high achiever, one must always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid something even more important. Now I ask myself: Can I be wasting my life more effectively?

This principle has already had a positive effect on my life. (Although, to be honest, this last week I’ve slid a little bit.) I ask myself “can I be wasting my time better?” and the answer is almost always yes. Some of the alternative procrastination options are frighteningly close to productive.

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