Luminaries gathered at Harvard University last night for the yearly awarding of the IgNobel Prizes. "When a team of scientists decided to work out the complex mathematics that control the shape and movement of a human ponytail, they had not set their sights on fame or glory," writes The Guardian, describing this year's winners in physics. Other winners include the SpeechJammer, developed by Japanese researchers, that repeats a person's words at a slight delay — "the echo effect of the device is just annoying enough to get someone to sputter and stop," adds the Associated Press — and work into why researchers could see brain activity in a dead salmon.
Then there's the coffee. Based on his observations of conference attendees walking carefully and trying not to spill their coffee as well as on further analysis, the University of California, Santa Barbara's Rouslan Krechetnikov found "that it was just a coincidence that 'the sizes of common coffee cups (dictated by the convenience of carrying them and the normal consumption of coffee by humans) are such that the frequency of natural liquid oscillations in the cup is on the order of the step frequency of normal walking,'" The Guardian says.
"This fact together with the natural irregularity of biomechanics of walking, which contributes to the amplification of coffee sloshing, are responsible for coffee spilling," Krechetnikov adds.