Science

You’ve Heard of the Nobel Prize… But Have You Heard of the Ig Nobel Prize?

“The Stinker”, the official mascot of the Ig Nobel Prizes

Sometimes research is funny. No, really! Using actual money and resources to study if roller coasters can help move kidney stones? Comedy GOLD.

When research, either good or bad, is funny and thought provoking it can earn an Ig Nobel Prize. Organized by the Annals of Improbable Research, ten prizes in different fields have been awarded in September every year since 1991.

Here are some highlights from the 2020 award winners:

  • Psychology Prize: for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows
  • Peace Prize: For the governments of India and Pakistan, for having their diplomats surreptitiously ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door
  • Economics Prize: for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries’ national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing
  • Medicine Prize: for diagnosing a long-unrecognized medical condition: Misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds
  • Materials Science Prize: for showing that knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work well

That last one is my personal favorite. Where would we be without this VITAL research?!?!

Here are a few of my all time favorite winners:

  • Medical Prize (2018): for the medical report “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy.”
  • Economics Prize (2017): for experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person’s willingness to gamble
  • Psychology Prize (2016): for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers
  • Literature Prize (2012): The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
  • Archeology Prize (2008): for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
  • Literature Prize (2006): for the report “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.”
  • Peace Prize (2005): for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie “Star Wars.”
  • Psychology Prize (2004): for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.

Think these are fake? They sound like clickbait, but you can check out the full list and read the original research articles yourself!

Want to find entertaining research at MVCC? Check out our databases and ask a Librarian for help!

Are There Really Farting Microbes on the Planet Venus? This is a Job for Research!

Maybe you were scrolling through a news feed today and saw some headlines about aliens on Venus, or at least this weird gas that maybe means aliens. Maybe you’re not sure what to make of that or even if it’s true.

So we’ve got this library full of reliable news sources and books just waiting to be explored. Let’s do a little SCIENCE RESEARCH!

Oh, come on, don’t you want to know about the alleged aliens? Let’s check out some different databases and see what we can find!

If we’re looking for science news, a great place to start is Science Magazine Online, where we can find a news article describing the research that lead to the discovery.

If we are looking for more news, maybe we should try a news database, like the New York Times. If we search “life on Venus” under news, we find another article about the research that looks at this specific gas found in the Venusian atmosphere that we know is produced on Earth by tiny microbes. The production of that gas could mean there are living microbes, like bacteria, in the Venusian clouds! ALIEN BACTERIA!

Maybe now you’ve been bit by the knowledge bug and you want know more about Venus or the other planets. Follow me down the rabbit hole of astronomy information! We’ve got some great books in our collection that you can find through our Catalog! You might find a few books that look interesting…

As for life on Venus, we may not have the answer yet, but with a little bit of research we can discover what the headlines really mean. It wasn’t that bad, was it?

Librarians are always ready to help you dig into the databases to find what you need. All you have to do is ask us!

De-stress with Nature

Spring is my favorite time of year. I love all the flowers, ornamental trees, and seeing everything turn green. I find spending time in nature definitely helps lower my stress level. This year, because of the pandemic, many natural areas are closed or restricted, but there are still many open.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the following state parks in Northeastern Illinois remain open for limited day use: “Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park / North Point Marina, Chain O’ Lakes State Park, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural AreaIllinois and Michigan Canal State Trail (includes Buffalo Rock, Channahon, Gebhard Woods, and William G Stratton), Kankakee River State Park, Moraine Hills State Park, Silver Springs State Fish & Wildlife Area, Volo Bog State Natural Area.” “Parks will be open from sun-up to sundown. Guests will be allowed to engage in activities such as wildlife observation, hiking, biking, equestrian use and fishing (both from the bank and boats with a limit of two persons per boat. For additional information on recreational boating, please see guidance issued by DCEO) and mushroom hunting. All visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, shelter reservations, interpretive educational programs, beaches, special events and concessions will remain closed; turkey hunting will remain suspended at state parks.” Remember to social distance and to only gather with members of your household.

Some of the Forest Preserves of Cook County are also open for day use, with restrictions that are currently in place until May 31st. “We urge you to follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask when in the forest preserves.” They also ask that you only visit with members of your household, do not use the picnic tables, and if you need to, step off the trails to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. For more information on their restrictions and for a list of closures, please refer to the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Covid-19 news page. You should also know that other counties may be restricting usage to residents only.

I wish I had a spring photo of the geese at Saganashkee Slough, but this one from March will have to do.


How Did the Outbreak Begin? Conornavirus Pandemic on Frontline

This is an important exploration of the pandemic from award winning documentary series.

Frontline: Coronavirus Pandemic
SEASON 2020: EPISODE 16
How did the U.S. become the country with the worst known coronavirus outbreak in the world? FRONTLINE investigates the American response to COVID-19 — from Washington state to Washington, D.C. — and examines what happens when politics and science collide.

Keeping You and Your Food Safe from Covid-19

Hopefully we are all following the social distancing rules and staying home as much as possible. According to the National Institutes of Health’s webpage, “The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces…..scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” So, when you need to get groceries or want to support your local restaurant by ordering takeout, do you know how to handle the food and packaging when you get back home? This video by an MD in Michigan details the procedures for sanitizing your groceries and keeping your takeout food safe. It’s been making the rounds on social media and news cites, but just in case you missed it, it’s well worth watching the entire 13+ minutes. (PS – it’s also a good idea to sanitize your mail before you touch it. I’ve been putting mine in quarantine for 3 days.) See my update to this blog post here.









Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi!

Eight years ago a credit card-sized, affordable computer landed on the market, making computing and programming accessible to a wide audience. Since then, the Raspberry Pi has been a hit with scientists, hobbyists, students, and kids alike.

Take a look at these fun projects for beginners to get some inspiration!

The Library has several books and eBooks about the Raspberry Pi to get you started on your project. We also have resources on coding in Python and Scratch.

Have you been participating in this year’s One Book One College program? Use your Raspberry Pi to experiment with machine learning!

Pi day is coming up on March 14th (3-14!). Here’s how one academic library celebrated using the Raspberry Pi.

Katherine Johnson 1918 – 2020

Today marks the passing of one of the great minds of mathematics. Katherine Johnson, a mathematician at NASA during the Space Race, contributed to projects such as America’s first human space flight, the first moon landing, and the Space Shuttle.

In 2015 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians, for her 33 years of work with NASA.

She was best known for the calculations that helped put John Glenn in orbit around the Earth, the story behind Hidden Figures, available at the library in DVD, book, eBook, and eAudio format.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The United Nations has designated February 11th as International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day that highlights how important it is to encourage a new generation of women to enter into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to break down harmful stereotypes and narratives as well as promote policies that makes STEM fields more accessible to women and girls.

How Can You Celebrate Women in Science?

Introduce Girls and Young Women to STEM Careers

  • Moraine Valley supports women entering technology fields with its Women in Technology Mentoring program.
  • Know a girl entering eighth grade? She might want to sign up for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 20th at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • Girls aged 10-18 can get involved with Girls 4 Science, a non-profit dedicated to getting young women in Chicago involved in the STEM fields.

I’m GLAD I Can Evaluate Science News

Despite my love of all things science, I’m often frustrated by how scientific discoveries get reported to the public. Studies are often oversimplified, misrepresented, blown out of proportion, or taken out of context to encourage readers to click on a headline. And since science influences so much of our lives, misinformation can be dangerous.

Okay, so you want to be well informed about new scientific discoveries and how they might impact you, but you don’t want to read a bunch of sciencey research papers every day. How can you know the news stories you’re reading are accurate? Well, the best way is to be like a scientist and discover the truth for yourself!

Above the Noise developed the GLAD criteria to help determine if a science news article is trustworthy or not:

  • Get past the clickbait
  • Look out for crazy claims
  • Analyze sources
  • Determine outside expert opinions

Check out the video to learn more:

Want to go further down the rabbit hole of science news reporting?

This bunny knows the importance of accurate and trustworthy science reporting.

If you’d like help identifying good sources of science news, you should ask a librarian!

Make it a Hobbit to Look for the Science

I said “peaceful” Bilbo!

November 11th marks the 65th anniversary of the publication of The Two Towers, the second book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Central to the story are the Hobbits, peaceful, large-footed people of short stature that love the comforts of home.

Most people accept that Middle Earth and its inhabitants are fantasy, but there’s some scientific evidence that hobbit-like people might have been real. In 2003 scientists discovered a hominin, or species related to humans, that was small in stature. Named Homo floreisiensis and nicknamed “the hobbit”, whether or not this fossil find is a distinct species has been hotly debated among scientists since its discovery.

There’s also some evidence that a volcano was partially responsible for the disappearance of the species and that Komodo dragons might have seen them as prey. Where have I heard a story like this before?

Mixing science and literature? It brings tears to my eyes!

Scientists have found evidence that H. floreisiensis created and used tools, but there’s no word of any gold rings found at any of the archaeological sites. If there were, the find would be precious...

Check out some of the other ways science honors Tolkien’s works. Feeling nostalgic for the films? We’ve got them! Want to research our human relatives? Try our Science databases!

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