Ignoble (adj.)
1. Not noble in quality, character, or purpose; base or mean.
2. Not of the nobility; common.

Every year since 1991 a little known award is quietly handed out in the honor of insignificent scientific contribution and human progress. The award is the "Ig Nobel Prize", a play on the word ignoble and Nobel Prize. Yearly it lists "ten achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."

I haven't laughed this hard in a while. The following are a sample of some winners.

Archeology - Eclaireurs de France, the Protestant youth group whose name means "those who show the way," fresh-scrubbed removers of graffiti, for erasing the ancient paintings from the walls of the Meyrieres Cave near the French village of Bruniquel.
Chemistry - Ivette Bassa, constructor of colorful colloids, for her role in the crowning achievement of twentieth century chemistry, the synthesis of bright blue Jell-O.
Nutrition - The utilizers of SPAM, courageous consumers of canned comestibles, for 54 years of undiscriminating digestion.
Art - Presented jointly to Jim Knowlton, modern Renaissance man, for his classic anatomy poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom," and to the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, for encouraging Mr. Knowlton to extend his work in the form of a pop-up book.

Psychology - Presented jointly to John Edward Mack of Harvard Medical School and David M. Jacobs of Temple University, for their conclusion that people who believe they were kidnapped by aliens from outer space, probably were -- and especially for their conclusion, "the focus of the abduction is the production of children".
Biology - Presented jointly to Paul Williams Jr. of the Oregon State Health Division and Kenneth W. Newel of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, bold biological detectives, for their pioneering study, "Salmonella Excretion in Joy-Riding Pigs".
Visionary Technology - Presented jointly to Jay Schiffman of Farmington Hills, Michigan, crack inventor of AutoVision, an image projection device that makes it possible to drive a car and watch television at the same time, and to the Michigan State Legislature, for making it legal to do so.

Biology - Presented to W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Krafte-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their breakthrough study, "The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops," and especially for their numerical analysis of bowel movement frequency.
Medicine - Two prizes. First, to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, valiant victim of a venomous bite from his pet rattlesnake, for his determined use of electroshock therapy. At his own insistence, automobile sparkplug wires were attached to his lip, and the car engine revved to 3,000 rpm for five minutes. Second, to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their well-grounded medical report, "Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation."
Entomology - Presented to Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear, and carefully observing and analyzing the results.
Mathematics - Presented to The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, mathematical measurers of morality, for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to Hell if they don't repent.

Nutrition - Presented to John Martinez of J. Martinez & Company in Atlanta, for Luak Coffee, the world's most expensive coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and excreted by the luak, a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia.
Psychology - Presented to Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, of Keio University, for their success in training pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso and those of Monet.
Public Health - Presented to Martha Kold Bakkevig of Sintef Unimed in Trondheim, Norway, and Ruth Nielson of the Technical University of Denmark, for their exhaustive study, "Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold."

Medicine - Presented to James Johnston of R.J. Reynolds, Joseph Taddeo of U.S. Tobacco, Andrew Tisch of Lorillard, William Campbell of Philip Morris, Edward A. Horrigan of Liggett Group, Donald S. Johnston of American Tobacco Company, and Thomas E. Sandefur, Jr., chairman of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, for their unshakable discovery, as testified to the U.S. Congress, that nicotine is not addictive.
Physics - Presented to Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.
Peace - Presented to Jacques Chirac, President of France, for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima with atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.

- Presented to T. Yagyu and his colleagues from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, the Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and the Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic, for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavors of gum. [1]
Entomology - Presented to Mark Hostetler of the University of Florida, for his book, That Gunk on Your Car, which identifies the insect splats that appear on automobile windows.
Economics - Presented to Akihiro Yokoi of Wiz Company in Chiba, Japan, and Aki Maita of Bandai Company in Tokyo, for diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets.

Safety Engineering - Presented to Troy Hurtubise, of North Bay, Ontario, for developing and personally testing a suit of armor that is impervious to grizzly bears.
Biology - Presented to Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac.
Peace - Presented to Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, for their aggressively peaceful explosions of atomic bombs.

- Presented to Dr. Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Pepper Institute, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, for breeding a spiceless jalapeño chile pepper.
- Presented to Charl Fourie and Michelle Wong of Johannesburg, South Africa, for inventing the Blaster, an automobile burglar alarm consisting of a detection circuit and a flamethrower.
Managed Health Care - Presented to the late George Blonsky and Charlotte Blonsky of New York City and San Jose, California, for inventing a device (US Patent #3,216,423) to aid women in giving birth -- the woman is strapped onto a circular table, and the table is then rotated at high speed.

Psychology - Presented to David Dunning of Cornell University and Justin Kreuger of the University of Illinois, for their modest report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments."
Physics - Presented to Andre Geim of the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Sir Michael Berry of Bristol University, England, for using magnets to levitate a frog and a sumo wrestler.
Computer Science - Presented to Chris Niswander of Tucson, Arizona, for inventing PawSense, software that detects when a cat is walking across your computer keyboard.

Here is the complete listing of Ig Nobel Prize Winners.
For another similar award, see the Darwin Award and its listing of Darwin Award Winners.

Science is still at its infancy, barely a couple hundred years old. It is nice humanity is learning to take itself less seriously. From time to time, it is healthy to laugh at yourself.

Answer to the Universe

This article strikes me as extremely interesting. In order to fully appreciate this story you would need to know Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its reference to the number 42. It would also help if you have heard of Riemann's Hypothesis, a math concept. This math concept is briefly refered to in "A Beautiful Mind" and has to do with the mathematical pattern prediction of prime numbers.

Yes, I am a nerd, but it would please me to introduce you to this highly amusing article at 1:30am on a Tuesday night ^_^

Venusian Treen writes "In their search for patterns, mathematicians have uncovered unlikely connections between prime numbers and quantum physics. The gist is that energy levels in the nucleus of heavy atoms can tell us about the distribution of zeros in Riemann's zeta function - and hence where to find prime numbers. This article discusses this connection, and introduces two physisicts who tell us 'why the answer to life, the universe and the third moment of the Riemann zeta function should be 42.'"

In their search for patterns, mathematicians have uncovered unlikely connections between prime numbers and quantum physics. Will the subatomic world help reveal the illusive nature of the primes?

by Marcus du Sautoy Posted March 27, 2006 12:40 AM

In 1972, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote an article called "Missed Opportunities." In it, he describes how relativity could have been discovered many years before Einstein announced his findings if mathematicians in places like Göttingen had spoken to physicists who were poring over Maxwell's equations describing electromagnetism. The ingredients were there in 1865 to make the breakthrough--only announced by Einstein some 40 years later.

It is striking that Dyson should have written about scientific ships passing in the night. Shortly after he published the piece, he was responsible for an abrupt collision between physics and mathematics that produced one of the most remarkable scientific ideas of the last half century: that quantum physics and prime numbers are inextricably linked.

This unexpected connection with physics has given us a glimpse of the mathematics that might, ultimately, reveal the secret of these enigmatic numbers. At first the link seemed rather tenuous. But the important role played by the number 42 has recently persuaded even the deepest skeptics that the subatomic world might hold the key to one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics.

Prime numbers, such as 17 and 23, are those that can only be divided by themselves and one. They are the most important objects in mathematics because, as the ancient Greeks discovered, they are the building blocks of all numbers--any of which can be broken down into a product of primes. (For example, 105 = 3 x 5 x 7.) They are the hydrogen and oxygen of the world of mathematics, the atoms of arithmetic. They also represent one of the greatest challenges in mathematics.

As a mathematician, I've dedicated my life to trying to find patterns, structure and logic in the apparent chaos that surrounds me. Yet this science of patterns seems to be built from a set of numbers which have no logic to them at all. The primes look more like a set of lottery ticket numbers than a sequence generated by some simple formula or law.

For 2,000 years the problem of the pattern of the primes--or the lack thereof--has been like a magnet, drawing in perplexed mathematicians. Among them was Bernhard Riemann who, in 1859, the same year Darwin published his theory of evolution, put forward an equally-revolutionary thesis for the origin of the primes. Riemann was the mathematician in Göttingen responsible for creating the geometry that would become the foundation for Einstein's great breakthrough. But it wasn't only relativity that his theory would unlock.

Riemann discovered a geometric landscape, the contours of which held the secret to the way primes are distributed through the universe of numbers. He realized that he could use something called the zeta function to build a landscape where the peaks and troughs in a three-dimensional graph correspond to the outputs of the function. The zeta function provided a bridge between the primes and the world of geometry. As Riemann explored the significance of this new landscape, he realized that the places where the zeta function outputs zero (which correspond to the troughs, or places where the landscape dips to sea-level) hold crucial information about the nature of the primes. Mathematicians call these significant places the zeros.

Riemann's discovery was as revolutionary as Einstein's realization that E=mc2. Instead of matter turning into energy, Riemann's equation transformed the primes into points at sea-level in the zeta landscape. But then Riemann noticed that it did something even more incredible. As he marked the locations of the first 10 zeros, a rather amazing pattern began to emerge. The zeros weren't scattered all over; they seemed to be running in a straight line through the landscape. Riemann couldn't believe this was just a coincidence. He proposed that all the zeros, infinitely many of them, would be sitting on this critical line--a conjecture that has become known as the Riemann Hypothesis.

But what did this amazing pattern mean for the primes? If Riemann's discovery was right, it would imply that nature had distributed the primes as fairly as possible. It would mean that the primes behave rather like the random molecules of gas in a room: Although you might not know quite where each molecule is, you can be sure that there won't be a vacuum at one corner and a concentration of molecules at the other.

For mathematicians, Riemann's prediction about the distribution of primes has been very powerful. If true, it would imply the viability of thousands of other theorems, including several of my own, which have had to assume the validity of Riemann's Hypothesis to make further progress. But despite nearly 150 years of effort, no one has been able to confirm that all the zeros really do line up as he predicted.

It was a chance meeting between physicist Freeman Dyson and number theorist Hugh Montgomery in 1972, over tea at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, that revealed a stunning new connection in the story of the primes--one that might finally provide a clue about how to navigate Riemann's landscape. They discovered that if you compare a strip of zeros from Riemann's critical line to the experimentally recorded energy levels in the nucleus of a large atom like erbium, the 68th atom in the periodic table of elements, the two are uncannily similar.

It seemed the patterns Montgomery was predicting for the way zeros were distributed on Riemann's critical line were the same as those predicted by quantum physicists for energy levels in the nucleus of heavy atoms. The implications of a connection were immense: If one could understand the mathematics describing the structure of the atomic nucleus in quantum physics, maybe the same math could solve the Riemann Hypothesis.

Mathematicians were skeptical. Though mathematics has often served physicists--Einstein, for instance--they wondered whether physics could really answer hard-core problems in number theory. So in 1996, Peter Sarnak at Princeton threw down the gauntlet and challenged physicists to tell the mathematicians something they didn't know about primes. Recently, Jon Keating and Nina Snaith, of Bristol, duely obliged.

There is an important sequence of numbers called "the moments of the Riemann zeta function." Although we know abstractly how to define it, mathematicians have had great difficulty explicitly calculating the numbers in the sequence. We have known since the 1920s that the first two numbers are 1 and 2, but it wasn't until a few years ago that mathematicians conjectured that the third number in the sequence may be 42--a figure greatly significant to those well-versed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It would also prove to be significant in confirming the connection between primes and quantum physics. Using the connection, Keating and Snaith not only explained why the answer to life, the universe and the third moment of the Riemann zeta function should be 42, but also provided a formula to predict all the numbers in the sequence. Prior to this breakthrough, the evidence for a connection between quantum physics and the primes was based solely on interesting statistical comparisons. But mathematicians are very suspicious of statistics. We like things to be exact. Keating and Snaith had used physics to make a very precise prediction that left no room for the power of statistics to see patterns where there are none.

Mathematicians are now convinced. That chance meeting in the common room in Princeton resulted in one of the most exciting recent advances in the theory of prime numbers. Many of the great problems in mathematics, like Fermat's Last Theorem, have only been cracked once connections were made to other parts of the mathematical world. For 150 years many have been too frightened to tackle the Riemann Hypothesis. The prospect that we might finally have the tools to understand the primes has persuaded many more mathematicians and physicists to take up the challenge. The feeling is in the air that we might be one step closer to a solution. Dyson might be right that the opportunity was missed to discover relativity 40 years earlier, but who knows how long we might still have had to wait for the discovery of connections between primes and quantum physics had mathematicians not enjoyed a good chat over tea.

Marcus du Sautoy is professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, and is the author of The Music of the Primes (Source: HarperCollins).


My lack of excerise actually led to weight lost. For the past 3 weeks I have not jogged nor hiked. Sometimes, while watching tv I would do some sit-ups. I lost about 5 pounds. This is a strange world. I feel like Bridget Jones.


Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Exceptional

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius

Your General Knowledge is Genius

Ha~ My logical intelligence is below average >_<

5 Questions to Love

It seems everything has gotten faster in this modern day and age. Fast food, fast car, fast men and women, 30 minute tv time span. Yet this survey seems a bit extreme on the over simplification. Is it possible to know thyself base on 5 multiple choice questions?

Your Love Life Secrets Are

Looking back on your life, you will only have one true love.

You're a little scarred from your past relationships, but who isn't?

You expect a lot from your lover - you want the full package. You tend to be very picky.

In fights, you love to debate and defend yourself. You logic prevails - or at least you'd like to think so.

A break-up usually comes as a shock to you. You always think things are going well.

I wonder who is that "one true love" the survey was refering to?

Birth Order?

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

They actually guess my birth order right. The statments they made about me are also vague but true.

Random Thoughts

Call me lifegiver, for I am your sustenance. I burn, and by my burning you live. I stand, and in standing supply your anchor. Space curls around, my blanket, and funnels down to mystery in my bowels. Time beats his scythe on my forge.

Living thing, does Entropy, my wicked Aunt, notice our joint conspiracy? Not yet, I think, for you are yet too small. Your puny struggle against her tide is a fluttering in a great wind. And she thinks I am still her ally.

Call me lifegiver, oh living thing, and weep. I burn endlessly and, burning, consume what cannot be re-placed. While you sip daintily at my torrent the font runs slowly out. When it empties other stars shall take my place, but oh not forever!
~David Brin, Sundiver

Sometimes I don't fully comprehend a source of writing but find the words strangely moving. The sing song quality of phrases touche me and invoke images. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse was such a book. Along with those images form emotions and questions that I never knew existed. It is this transformation of words into motion pictures rigth inside my head that fasinates me. A single book, read by each person, is a slightly different movie playing in their head. I am only limited by my imagination.

It unsettles me why it is usually something I don't fully understand which moves me so. Religion for one and suffering for another. Religion has always baffled me, yet I can't deny its comfort, this urge to believe in something without understanding. Some people call it faith, other call it foolishness. Regardless, the more I read on the topic, on each holy book from each religion, the less I know. What is certain is the force that is behind those words which forms love, hate, war, sacrifice, and redemption.

Suffering is something that I don't completely understand either. We as a species seems to treasure pain, the ability to give and to break ourselves. Greek has a love for tragedy. The struggle seems to be the important thing, the experience. Think back on the moments you hold dear, the times which you recall most clearly. It may be marked by triump or failure, yet I can safely say it is marked with pain.

We make fun of it. This suffering. Our jokes tend to have someone facing their humanity, the pain and defect which we can't overcome. It is which that makes us human. Tripping on a banana peel, funny? Having heavy object falling on someone, humorous? Those are crude and direct jokes, yet they serve as a good example. The jokes we laugh at are the limitions which we possess. Our stupidity, our mortaility, our way of life. That which we are powerless to change, we laugh. Maybe that is why humor is so important to us, it keeps us sane.

Of course, I don't understand females either, but it is safe to say they are strangely moving. The ability to appreciate what we don't understand might be what enables us to reach for the First Fire, while in awe of the dancing amber and flame.

Things of Interest

Major Technology News:
Political News:
Currently Playing:
Note Worthy Game Coming Out:
Excerise in the last 2 weeks:
  • Situp - none
  • Jogging - none
  • Judo - none
Reading Materials:
  • THSRC ECS contract.
  • Dune Series
  • Vorkosigan Series
  • Low Temperature Thermal Desorption Process
  • Indirect Thermal Remediation
  • Update webpage (side bar)
  • Organize quotations
  • Research GalCivII
  • Research US tax laws
  • Organize manga
  • Sort through 300 some songs
  • Organize classical painting collections
  • Find a good movie so I can go to the theater
Random Quotes:
  • Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. ~Dan Rather
  • If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. ~Henry David Thoreau
  • I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far. ~John Muir
  • Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928
  • I have settled for so many things in life, let love not be one of them.
  • We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. ~W. Somerset Maugham

Comet Sushi

Sometimes I try so hard to please other people I loose my ways. Most of the time it is just small things, an hour or two over time at work, eating out at restaurants that my friends enjoy, or just emptying that extra glass or two of "social business" drinks, because it is the polite thing to do at business dinner.

I know these are just compromises in life, and life is about taking a little and giving a little. But sometimes there are so many compromises it feels more like a full-blown retreat. Once in a while I would step back and look at myself and say, "this is not who I am". I don't like to drink, I am not a vegetarian, I like to get home by 10pm from work.

Take this blog for example, at the beginning, it is a place to come and talk with myself. Now when is the last time I even talked about my life? More and more I try to add stuff to the blog to make it seem more interesting. Customized. To please the imaginary audience that I don't really have.

It is, really, my own fault. Intellectually I know it is impossible to make everyone happy. Yet there is always the desire to try then there would come the inevitable result of failing to please.

I sometimes daydream that I am a stronger person. Able to go that extra mile, to protect everyone I love. Sometimes I wish I can go without sleep and get that next report done, to squeeze in an extra hour to talk to someone I care. Sometimes I wish.

Yet in the end, I am only human and can only do so much. I am not even all that good of a person. Unlike some people who can just give and give like a never drying fountain. I dry up sometimes. When that happens I go away, to sleep my 14 hours and recharge, to take a run at night, to be by myself and examine my life. It is true, I came to accept that I cannot be good to all people all the time. Every so often I just need some time to myself. It is who I am.

So maybe that is how my life will run, like a comet circling the sun, inevitably drawn close by the gravitation and need, then inevitably going further away on my own journey into the unknown.


“Begin at the beginning”, the King said, gravely, “and go till you come to the end; then stop. ”
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.
~Anatole France

If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.
~Ludwig Wittgenstein

I'm old enough to know better, but I'm still too young to care.
~Wade Hayes

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?'"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.
~Michael Caine

There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.
~Woody Allen

She's been everyone else's girl; maybe one day she'll be her own.
~Tori Amos