Worth Watching


It isn’t quite like winning a Nobel Prize, but the winners of this year’s Ig® Nobel Prizes were announced (more information here) at a ceremoney held last week at Sanders Theater, Harvard University. The Prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.  As Nature points out, “These come with little cash, but much cachet, and reward those research projects that ‘first make people laugh, and then make them think.” All Ig Nobel Prizes activities are organized by the Annals of Improbable Research.

This year’s winners involve two awards for research related to finance, at least indirectly.  Mirjam Tuk (of the Netherlands and the UK), Debra Trampe (of the Netherlands) and Luk Warlop (of Belgium) and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of Australia) were awarded the Medicine Prize for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things — but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.  More specifically, the Eurozone team found that higher levels of bladder control result in an increasing ability to resist more immediate temptations in monetary decision making.  Practice does indeed make perfect I guess.

The Mathematics Prize was awarded to Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on May 21, 2011 and for thereafter predicting that the world would end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations. These awards and the supporting materials provide additional support for my recent article examining the difficulties in economic and market forecasting.

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