…For achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK
MEDICINE PRIZE [USA] — Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.
REFERENCE: “Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster,” Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vol. 116, October 2016, pp. 647-652.
ANTHROPOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, ROMANIA, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, UK, INDONESIA, ITALY] — Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.
REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors,” Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Primates, vol. 59, no. 1, January 2018, pp 19–29.
BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND] — Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.
REFERENCE: “The Scent of the Fly,” Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE [PORTUGAL] — Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, for measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.
REFERENCE: “Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces,” by Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana, Studies in Conservation, vol. 35, 1990, pp. 153-155.
MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Akira Horiuchi, for the medical report “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy.”
REFERENCE: “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope,” Akira Horiuchi and Yoshiko Nakayama, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, vol. 63, No. 1, 2006, pp. 119-20.
LITERATURE PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, EL SALVADOR, UK] — Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, for documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual.
REFERENCE: “Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products,” Alethea L. Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, Interacting With Computers, vol. 28, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-46.
NUTRITION PRIZE [ZIMBABWE, TANZANIA, UK] — James Cole, for calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.
REFERENCE: “Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic,” James Cole, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 44707, April 7, 2017.
PEACE PRIZE [SPAIN, COLOMBIA] — Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge, Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Jaime Sanmartín, Constanza Calatayud, and Beatriz Alamar, for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile.
REFERENCE: “Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment,” Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 1, no. 12017, pp. 1-7.
REFERENCE: “La Justicia en el Tráfico: Conocimiento y Valoración de la Población Española” [“Justice in Traffic: Knowledge and Valuation of the Spanish Population”)], F. Alonso, J. Sanmartín, C. Calatayud, C. Esteban, B. Alamar, and M. L. Ballestar, Cuadernos de Reflexión Attitudes, 2005.
REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, JAPAN, SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT, INDIA, BANGLADESH] — John Barry, Bruce Blank, and Michel Boileau, for using postage stamps to test whether the male sexual organ is functioning properly—as described in their study “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps.”
REFERENCE: “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps,” John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michael Boileau, Urology, vol. 15, 1980, pp. 171-172.
ECONOMICS PRIZE [CANADA, CHINA, SINGAPORE, USA] — Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa Keeping, for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.
REFERENCE: “Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice,” Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping, The Leadership Quarterly, February 2018.
As always, winners from previous years, as well as all kinds of stuff, may be found on the Improbable Research website.
We are pleased to announce the release of two new oral histories in our continuing partnership with the Getty Trust to document the careers of extraordinary artists, scientists, preparators, scholars, and administrators that have guided and shaped the Getty over the past thirty years. Historians Todd Holmes and Paul Burnett spent four days alternating full-day interview sessions in an intense baptism into the world of conservation science, exploring the careers of two remarkable scientists from the 1960s through to the present: Jim Druzik and Neville Agnew.
Foxes and Hedgehogs: Jim Druzik and the Development of the Field of Conservation Science
Getty Conservation Institute Senior Scientist Jim Druzik had a baptism of his own rubbing shoulders with the geniuses of postwar modern art as they worked together on installations at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art. Trained as a chemist, and with one foot ever in the scientific world, Jim very quickly applied the latest scientific research to the problems of conservation. He joined the Getty Institute of Conservation in 1985, and soon established himself as a world leader in conservation science, always concerning himself with how the physical and chemical composition of museum artifacts reacted with the physical and chemical composition of their environments. But much more than that, Druzik was a student of the larger social and economic context of the museum world, taking advantage of initiatives in pollution research, assessments of industrial chemicals, and energy conservation, to name just a few, to make the museum world a better, more accessible and sustainable place. Finally, Jim is very reflective about his roles as a scientist and an administrator. He understands that the world of science and the world of the museum are defined by the people who work in them and on them. Science is social, as the historians are fond of saying, and the keys to Jim’s success can be found as much in his enthusiasm for the people he works with as for the work he does with them.
Neville Agnew: Thirty Years of Cultural Heritage Site Conservation with the Getty Trust
South-African-born Neville Agnew is a more nomadic scientist. If Jim’s work brings laboratory tools to the museum environment, Neville’s brings lab techniques and tools far out into the field. Whether raising and preserving the guns of a long-lost naval vessel off the north coast of Australia, or studying the deterioration of the Great Sphinx in Egypt, or restoring ancient Buddhist cave paintings in southwestern China, Neville underscores the fact that international conservation work is not just bringing the tools of the laboratory to bear on ancient sites, but also a skillful diplomatic effort to build and maintain the partnerships—between project sponsors, international conservation research teams, national political leaders, and local communities—needed to conduct such work. He explores the tension between an ideal of conservation in controlled environments versus the compromises inherent in dealing with “immovable cultural property.” At a time when the willful destruction of cultural heritage is almost a daily news item, we are reminded of the importance and fragility of the work that both of these scientists have done to protect the world’s art and cultural heritage for future generations.
Paul Burnett and Todd Holmes, Historians/Interviewers, January 2017