But can you find “meaningful brain activity” in Washington?

In excitement of Sing Like a Pirate and Talk Like Chester A. Arthur Day, it was easy to forget that this is also the week in which the year’s Ig Nobel prizes were announced. A couple of the highlights:

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.

LITERATURE PRIZE: The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

The complete list is here.


The manga magazine Young Jump has published a history of the Ig Nobel prizes, noted here and here. There’s no translation, but the images speak for themselves.

The 2010 Ig Nobel prizes will be awarded September 30. Fans of Moyashimon will be interested to know that the theme of this year’s ceremony is “bacteria.” Scheduled events include:

The Bacterial Opera: World premiere of a mini-opera about the bacteria who live on a woman’s front tooth, and about that woman. Conducted by David Stockton. Starring Maria Ferrante, Ben Sears, Roberta Gilbert and Thomas Michel as bacteria — and Jenny Gutbezahl as The Woman. Pianist Branden Grimmett. Costumes by Jenn Martinez.
Microbial Miniconcert by Evelyn Evelyn (and their friends Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley)
Pre-pre-show Boston Squeezebox Ensemble microbeconcert in lobby (begins at 6:45 pm), led by Dr. Thomas Michel
Pre-show Pathogenic Bacterial Pianoconcerto by Maria Eliseeva


If you get tired of reading manga and watching anime, you can always watch the Japanese Vesuvius. Sakura-jima has been puffing away quite energetically recently, and this webcam has a good view of the active crater. (If you click on the cross-hairs, you can take control of the camera for a while.) It’s best viewed during daylight hours in Japan, though allegedly, if you’re lucky, you can occasionally see some incandescence and lightning at night. (Update: Visibility might be impaired by clouds, particularly when tropical storms are in the region, as is currently the case.)