In The Reasoner: Boiled eggs

Last month saw the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. The Ig Nobel prizes aim to honour achievements that first make people laugh and then make people think. Here is a quote from their website: “The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”The award ceremony takes place every September. This year’s ceremony can be viewed on the Improbable Research website. And past ceremonies can be viewed at the Improbable Research YouTube channel.

There is an award for medicine, and sometimes other health-related awards. (The list of past award winners is available on the website.) Past award winners in these categories include Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin for using the method of nasal packing with strips of cured pork to treat life-threatening nose-bleeds, and Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti for giving advice to doctors who perform colonoscopies on how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode. Other past winners include Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde for their research on the surgical management of penisamputations ‘usually performed by angry wives on philandering husbands’. They are cautious not to recommend their techniques ‘in cases where the amputated penishad been partially eaten by a duck’.

This year’s winner of the diagnostic medicine prize went to Diallah Karim, Anthony Harnden, Nigel D’Souza, Andrew Huang, Abdel Kader Allouni, Helen Ashdown, Richard J. Stevens, and Simon Kreckler for determining that ‘presence of pain while travelling over speed bumps was associated with an increased likelihood of acute appendicitis’. But even this year’s award for chemistry has implications for medicine.

The chemistry prize was awarded this year to Callum Ormonde, Colin Raston, Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, and Gregory Weiss for partially unboiling an egg. Here is a cartoon to explain. One newspaper reports that the upshot is that the same device for partially unboiling an egg can be used to more precisely deliver a chemotherapy drug for ovarian and lung cancers. The newspaper article can be found here.

The Reasoner is a monthly digest highlighting exciting new research on reasoning, inference and method broadly construed. It is interdisciplinary, covering research in, e.g., philosophy, logic, AI, statistics, cognitive science, law, psychology, mathematics and the sciences. Each month, there is a column on Evidence-Based Medicine.