Saturday, October 13, 2012
Don't know if you have been paying attention but... IT'S NUTS OUT THERE!
Take me, for example… I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. What could be more insane… especially at World Series time? The Cubs last won a World Series in 1907—just one century plus 5 years ago! Last time they were even in the World Series was 1945—right after World War II and before everyone younger than 67-years old was even born! And don’t give me any of that “…But we deserved it… we haven’t won in three years” crap.
For sheer fan fanaticism though, it would be hard to beat the University of Kentucky fan who replaced his glass eye with one sporting a UK logo as the pupil. Actually, I respect the ardor if not the common sense. If I did that using a Cubs logo (can’t say I haven’t thought about it), it would be “Long time no C, pal?”
Oh yeah? Just wait ‘til next year!
Then there is the bizarre trial of the year where a Washington State woman was recently convicted of the attempted murder of her estranged husband. She hit him on the head with a hatchet then a mallet, among other things. The story goes that she had invited her husband over to stay the night and told him to sleep on a mattress which she had previously wrapped in plastic before putting on bedtime sheets... and he doesn’t even wet the bed.
To get ready for the big night, she purchased the hatchet and mallet, a lot of bleach, a supply of large garbage bags… and, oh yes, a chain saw.
As he was sleeping, she hit him on the head with the old ‘one-two’… first the hatchet, then the mallet. Obviously not a heavy sleeper, her hard-headed husband woke (with a roaring headache) at the sound of the chain saw firing up… grzzZZZZZZZWHINE! As she tried to decapitate him with the saw, he fought her off, sustaining significant cuts in the process.
The wife pleaded “Not guilty,” because:
· Alibi #1--a mysterious stranger entered through the bedroom window, found the hatchet, mallet and chain saw and tried to kill her man with them. Sad for her, that window had a safety latch and only opened two inches.
· Alibi #2--OK then, she said, her husband may have injured himself and tried to blame it on her.
· Alibi #3—It all came down to a final 'Hail Mary," when her attorney suggested that, after all, it was only “a very half-hearted attempt” to kill him. Hmm… well, he did survive, so he had a point there.
But, finding not the slightest benefit of the doubt in these possibilities, the jurors returned a “Guilty” verdict in a respectable three hours, which may have included lunch.
And you thought you had problems.
Then came the announcement of the 2012 winners of the Ig Nobel Prize awards (as in Nobel Prize but in a somewhat lighter vein). The Ig Nobels are sponsored by Annals of Improbable Research, a magazine for weird and humorous scientific discoveries.
The top award went to two Japanese researchers who came up with a device that disrupts a person’s speech by repeating his or her own voice at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds--kind of like Lou Gherig's "I-I am-am the-the luckiest-luckiest man-man in-in the-the world-world" farewell speech in Yankee Stadium--to be used by those tired of listening to someone drone on and on and on. This could be big!
Other winners, equally brilliant in their fields, included:
· Dutch researchers who won the psychology prize for studying why leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower look smaller
· Four Americans who won the neuroscience award fore demonstrating that sophisticated equipment can detect brain activity in dead fish
· A British-American team which won the physics prize for explaining how and why ponytails bounce
· The U.S. General Accountability Office (yes, our very government… GO USA!) that won the literature prize for a report about reports
· An engineering professor and a graduate student who won the fluid dynamics prize for research into the sloshing of coffee that goes on in the cup as it is carried
Lest you think the Ig Nobel awards are parodies of the real Nobel awards, be aware that the winners, by tradition, are presented their awards by real Nobel Prize winners… at Harvard, no less. And the 2007 Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Eric Maskin was not only this year’s presenter but first prize in the “Win a Date with a Nobel Laureate” contest. See, there is humor among the very talented, if not somewhat puzzling world of geniuses. (How do you like them apples, you actuary toads?)