Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson Gets Quizzed About the Ig Nobel Prizes

October 25th, 2014

Florence_hendersonFlorence Henderson, the actress who played Mrs. Brady on the TV show The Brady Bunch, answered questions today about the Ig Nobel Prizes. This happened on the NPR program Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

You can, if you like, listen to it on the Wait, Wait web site.

Here’s historic video footage of Florence Henderson in The Brady Bunch:


Here’s a transcript [supplied by the Wait, Wait staff] of Florence Henderson answering questions about the Ig:

For decades — during the original run and then countless reruns — Florence Henderson, who presided over the Brady Bunch, was America’s perfect Mom.

We’ve invited Henderson to play a game called “They said you were mad at the Academy! Mad, I tell you!” In September, the Annals of Improbable Research handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real, if ridiculous, research. We’ll ask three questions about the far horizons of science.

[HOST PETER] SAGAL: Now a few weeks ago, the Annals Of Improbable Research – that’s a journal – handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real – if ridiculous – science. We’re going to ask you three questions about the far horizons of science.


SAGAL: Answer two of these questions correctly, you’ll win a prize for one of our listeners – Carl Kasell’s voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is the immortal Florence Henderson playing for?

[ANNOUNCER BILL] KURTIS: Sharon Gavin of Atlanta, Georgia.

SAGAL: All right. Are you ready to do this?

HENDERSON: Oh, my gosh, I’ll feel terrible if I don’t win. Can I send her something?

SAGAL: You may.


SAGAL: Or perhaps her husband might be more appreciative.


SAGAL: Whatever works – but let’s play the game.


SAGAL: OK, here we go. Here’s your first question. The Ig Nobel Prize in physics this year went to a team in Japan that investigated what? Did they investigate A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were really to step on it? B, the actual amount of friction between a person’s shoe, a banana peel and the floor; or C, how big Angelina Jolie’s lips could become before they explode?


HENDERSON: You know what, I’m going to go with A.

SAGAL: You’re going to go with A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were to stop on it?


SAGAL: OK, no. Actually was B, the banana peel.


HENDERSON: Are you serious?

SAGAL: I’m very serious and so were they. According to their exacting measurements, we can now say for sure that a banana peel on a linoleum floor is slippery.


HENDERSON: Now, please.

BABYLON: And funny.

SAGAL: And funny. You have two more chances, so you can do this.


SAGAL: And we always know Mrs. Brady always had a happy ending, so here we go. A special prize was given in Arctic Science and that was given to an international team of scientists who explored what question? A, if ice cubes taken from the polar ice cap can improve a cocktail; B, if putting up big fans on the poles to blow on the Arctic ice can help reverse global warming; or C, how reindeer behave when they are approached by humans dressed as polar bears.

HENDERSON: Oh, jeez. What was A again?

SAGAL: A was if ice cubes taken from the ancient polar ice cap will actually make your cocktail taste better.

HENDERSON: I think I have to go with that.

[PROGRAM PANELIST AMY] DICKINSON: That’s like a Dean Martin kind of question.

HENDERSON: It is, absolutely.

SAGAL: It is a Dean Martin kind of question.

DICKINSON: Can I weigh in? It doesn’t…

HENDERSON: Yeah, help me out here.

DICKINSON: I don’t know. Think that sounds wasteful. What was the second one?

HENDERSON: Blowing a fan is going to help global warming.

SAGAL: Yeah, that sounds ridiculous.

DICKINSON: That’s kind of crazy. And the other one was the…

SAGAL: The last one was how reindeer behave when they’re approached by humans wearing polar bear suits.

DICKINSON: I’m liking that one. I’m liking that one.


HENDERSON: Oh. I think I have to stay with A.


SAGAL: Really? I want to point out you may not know this, but Amy is an advice columnist.

HENDERSON: Oh, Amy. My gosh, yeah, I like three. I like number three.

SAGAL: There we go. Yes, you’re right.


SAGAL: It turns out – and this is again according to this very scientific study – that reindeer are kind of freaked out when people dressed as polar bears approach them. All right, Florence, get this one right, you win.

The Public Health Prize went to a team that tried to determine if doing what was detrimental to your mental health? Is it A, trying to get your cable hooked up; B, playing the computer game Candy Crush; or C, owning a cat?



BLOUNT: I own a cat.

HENDERSON: It’s bad for your mental health.


BLOUNT: And Roy just said he owns a cat, which to me is sort of proof right there.


DICKINSON: That’s true.

HENDERSON: Well, all right, let’s go with number three.

SAGAL: You’re going to go with number three, owning a cat?


SAGAL: Yes, that’s right.


SAGAL: So they published a number of studies that involve various things like parasites that cats sometimes have, but the short answer is yes, cats make you crazy.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Florence Henderson do in our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, Florence and Amy got two out of three.

DICKINSON: Thank you.


SAGAL: Florence Henderson was, is and always will be America’s favorite TV mom. Florence Henderson, what fun to have you. Thank you so much…

BONUS: The Professor from Gilligan’s Island took part in the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (in 1993)

Evolution of the BUM, so they say

October 25th, 2014

Some physicists cannot resist the chance to play with certain favorite words from their younger days. The title of this study is an example of what can result:

Peculiarities in the evolution of the BUM of stimulated radio emission of the ionosphere,” V. L. Frolov, S. M. Grach, L. M. Erukhimov, G. P. Komrakov, E. N. Sergeev, B. Tide and T. Carozzi, Radiophysics and Quantum Electronics, Volume 39, Number 3, 1996, 241-254.

My recent Ig Nobel talk, at TED Talks

October 24th, 2014

The talk I did recently at TEDMED is today’s talk of the day at the TED Talks site:

For more detail about any of the winners mentioned in the video, see the full list of Ig Nobel Prize winners.

Two quick Belgian video compilations of Ig Nobel highlights

October 24th, 2014

Lieven Scheire and his colleagues at Nerdland, in Belgium, produced these brief videos — compressed visual highlights from the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony webcast, and from the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony webcast:

BONUS: Lieven Scheire’s video —taken at the 2014 Ig Nobel webcast-watching party in Ghent — of Belgian Ig Nobel enthusiasts doing their own paper airplane deluge in tandem with the one happening at the Ig Nobel ceremony:


October 24th, 2014

Dr. Luke Bennett, a Senior Lecturer & Course Leader at the Department of the Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, is a leading, perhaps the leading ‘Bunkerologist’. In fact it was he who created the term – meaning ‘the study of bunkers’. For a recent publication on the subject, see : Who goes there? Accounting for gender in the urge to explore abandoned military bunkers’ in: Gender, Place and Culture (A Journal of Feminist Geography), Volume 20, Issue 5, 2013.

The author points out that the vast majority (though not all) bunker enthusiasts are male, and offers some ideas on why that might be the case. For example:

“From a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective, there is perhaps much that could be made of the focus, within this culture, of the shelter-as-womb and the preoccupation with penetration and return to that protective space.”

and/or possibly because of, or connected with:

“[...] a peripatetic nostalgia borne of a medley of factors: a primal urge to retreat to a place of (defensive) shelter, a nostalgia for a time where male roles had more clarity and importance (e.g. as ‘defender’), the alienation of deindustrialisation, the move away from a culture of ‘making things’ and a desire in retirement or redundancy to return to or to protect the working-life material places and artefacts that formerly gave life (and male identity) meaning.”

For further info., the author maintains a blog called ‘lukebennett13 ‘Tracing the spectacular within the humdrum of the built environment’ which features a number of bunkerological posts.

Note: Improbable apologises for the late notice regarding an event in a (somewhat) related field which is cited in the paper : Shedism. The International Men’s Sheds Festival 2014 was held October 3rd – 5th, 2014, Dublin, Ireland,

Coming soon : The testicular fortitude of urbexers

[many thanks to Dr. Bennett for his assistance]