Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 Ig Noble Prizes Announced at Harvard

The annual awarding of Ig Noble prizes at Harvard (not to be confused with the Nobel prizes) is always very entertaining and fun. The ceremony took place yesterday and 5 (real) Nobel laureates, including Professor William Lipscomb (whose son was a classmate of my husband's) gave out these awards.

This year there are some terrific ones in transportation, management, engineering, and economics so enjoy the full list, which was reported on already in The Guardian and in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

My favorite "winner" on this year's list, which I had written about a few months ago on this blog, and noted that the researchers had not cited earlier relevant literature in transportation, was on:

Transportation planning: Toshiyuki Nakagaki of the Future University-Hakodate, in Japan; Kentaro Ito of Hiroshima University; Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, all of unidentified institutions; and Dan Bebber and Mark Fricker of the University of Oxford, "for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks." (Paper: "Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design," Science, January 22, 2010.)

Actually, some of the out-of-the-mainstream ideas can be quite brilliant. For example, my work in Network Economics is now being applied to complex food webs and fisheries.

And the recipient for:

Management: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, all of the University of Catania, Italy, "for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random." (Paper: "The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study," Physica A, February 2010.)

Coincidentally, I was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Business Administration at the University of Catania in Italy in 2008 and together with my collaborator there, Professor Patrizia Daniele, we organized a workshop on complex networks.