The 2003 Ig Nobel Prize

by Jon Mandle on October 6, 2003

The winners of the 2003 Ig Nobel Prizes were announced a few days ago. They are brought to you by the fine folks at the Annals of Improbable Research and they honor people whose achievements “cannot or should not be reproduced.” This year’s winners include: the inventors (discoverers?) of Murphy’s Law; the authors of a paper entitled “An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces”; the authors of a paper entitled
“Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans”; and the biologist who documented “the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck” (complete with link to photos!). You can watch the webcast of the awards ceremony here.

The more you watch Fox, the less you know

by Chris Bertram on October 6, 2003

Since so much of the blogospherical comment on media coverage of the Iraq war has focused on the BBC (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not), I was interested to read “this Asia Times report”: (via “Brian Leiter”: ) which tells us that there is a strong correlation between getting your news from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox and having false beliefs about the war. That doesn’t show, of course, that people got their false beliefs from watching Fox, another possibility is that having a lots of false beliefs just predisposes people to tune into that channel. Here’s the end of the article:

bq. The study also debunked the notion that misperceptions were due mainly to the lack of exposure to news.

bq. Among Bush supporters, those who said they follow the news “very closely”, were found more likely to hold misperceptions. Those Bush supporters, on the other hand, who say they follow the news “somewhat closely” or “not closely at all” held fewer misperceptions.

bq. Conversely, those Democratic supporters who said they did not follow the news very closely were found to be twice as likely to hold misperceptions as those who said they did, according to PIPA.


by Chris Bertram on October 6, 2003

I tuned into the BBC’s Panorama last night, which consisted of an investigation into Camp Delta at Guantanamo and also the conditions under which detainees are held in Afghanistan itself. Whilst Panorama can be a sensationalist programme with a definite agenda, the specific allegations made can’t easily be wished away or dismissed as biased or malicious. Many of these are familiar to people, but I was sufficiently engaged by the broadcast to want to rehearse them here. I’m going from my memory of the programme, so I may have missed some details. The points raised included:

bq. That numbers of people have been detained in Guantanamo after being denounced by their enemies and business rivals as a means of settling petty scores. (When the baselessness of the charges against them became clear, they were simply dumped back in Afghanistan to pick up their lives as best they could.)

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Israel Bombs Syria

by Kieran Healy on October 6, 2003

For the first time since 1973, Israel has attacked targets in Syria. The attacks were in response to the most recent suicide bomb attack in Haifa. According to CNN, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. described the attack as a “measured defensive operation” aimed at destroying a training camp run by Islamic Jihad. Syria denies the camp was a terrorist base. It was certainly inside Syria, though — about 14 miles from Damascus. I don’t have much to say about this, other than to ask whether better-informed people than me think this is going to escalate Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories.