SpeechJammer, Ponytail Physics Win Ig Nobels

One weird science winner found brain activity in dead fish
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2012 3:20 AM CDT
SpeechJammer, Ponytail Physics Win Ig Nobels
One Ig Nobel-winning team discovered that people leaning to the left underestimated the height of the Eiffel Tower.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Teams that scanned the brains of dead fish and studied the physics of coffee sloshing and ponytails were among the winners at this year's Ig Nobel celebration of strange scientific research. The acoustics prize went to the Japanese inventors of the SpeechJammer, a device that repeats a speaker's voice after a delay of a few milliseconds, creating an effect annoying enough to silence them, the AP reports. Its creators say it is meant to help public speakers realize when their allotted time has finished—although it could be used just to make people shut up.

The scientists who scanned the brains of dead salmon—and detected a signal—say their study should alert neuroscientists to the danger of catching chance signals when conducting multiple scans, reports the Guardian. And the physicists who developed a 3D imaging system to study ponytails say their findings go far beyond hairstyles. "We found that the bundle of hair collectively behaved like a simple spring, where the force necessary to compress it was proportional to the extent to which you compressed it," the lead researcher says. "That simple law is one of the things that would apply to a large number of systems." (Read more Ig Nobel Prizes stories.)

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