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This is improbable : cheese string theory,…

This is improbable : cheese string theory, magnetic chickens, and other… (2012)

by Marc Abrahams

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Marc Abrahams was the founder of the infamous and hilarious Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded each year for research that "first makes you laugh and then makes you think." Which probably gives you a reasonable idea of the contents of this collection of short pieces, all of which originally appeared in The Guardian. Each one is a little glimpse of some odd, amusing, or hard-to-believe piece of research. (E.g.: a study of people's reactions to someone walking around with a shoelace untied, an analysis of the history of Soviet underwear, or a look at the attitude of measurement experts to cheap plastic rulers.) Some of the subjects are clearly just bad science, others are perfectly legitimate research into offbeat topics, and a lot seem to fall somewhere in between. It's entertaining to dip into -- which is probably better than reading it all in a lump -- and Abrahams writes with a pleasantly sly sense of humor. I didn't find the collection, overall, to be quite as much fun as I was hoping for, though, I think mainly because each piece is so short that there's not a lot of room for the "thinking" part. Mostly, I get the sense of him pointing a finger at some scientific oddity or other and basically going, "Here's a quirky thing! Did you see it being quirky? Great, then, bye!" ( )
1 vote bragan | Dec 4, 2013 |
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Marc Abrahams, the founder of the famous Ig Nobel Prize, offers an addictive, wryly funny expose of the oddest, most imaginative, and just plain improbable research from around the world. He looks into why books on ethics are more likely to get stolen and how promoting people randomly improves their work, to what time of month generates higher tips for Vegas lap dancers and how mice were outfitted with parachutes to find a better way to murder tree snakes in Guam. Abrahams' tour through these unlikeliest investigations of animals, plants, and minerals, including humans, will first make you laugh, then make you think about the globe in a new way.… (more)

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