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As a patriotic (and pedantic) 'Strayan, I must point out that it's actually the Commonwealth Scientific and *Industrial* Research Organization (CSIRO). Though I see the Ignobel site was the source of the error.

I snap spaghetti cleanly in half by holding my hands together at the center of the pasta bundle, then breaking it. I guess the grip of my hands damp out any shockwaves in the pasta sticks.

>I snap spaghetti cleanly in half by holding my hands together at the center of the >pasta bundle, then breaking it.

Even better is to break it in the box. The box just crinkles up (rigid plane crinkling is also a active area of research) and catches all the little errant pieces. Thinking she'd be impressed, I went to show one of my former Italian colleagues this and she just about had a heart attack.

- "What, WHAT are you doing?!!", she sputtered.

- "What's wrong? The box won't get in the water."

- "Why are you breaking it at all? You've ruined it! Now what will we eat?!"

I'm with the Italian colleague on this one: the secret to great noodles (whether the Italian or Asian varieties) is NOT to break them in half, or thirds, or a bunch of tiny shattered bits. It just ruins the whole dining experience...

I feel so sad I didn't have the chance to attend the Ig Nobels this year. After all the trouble I went through to live in Boston again, I miss my first great opportunity for spectacle and revelry. :-(

Well, there's always the hope that I'll win the physics prize myself next year and get not just a chance to attend, but the seat of (dis)honor. And at least I learned a valuable lesson about how to make noodles. See, **everything** is an opportunity for learning if you just stay alert! (I have a sneaky feeling that my last words will be, "Okay class, now watch carefully. . . .")

Once again, we see that Feynman's name is a valuable commodity, and not just to the Caltech bookstore (where they have a Feynman section larger than the Sexuality shelf at any Barnes & Borders-A-Million). Hey, did you know that Feynman said "billions and billions" long before Carl Sagan ever did --- or rather, before Johnny Carson said it while doing his Carl Sagan impersonation? It's true. I noticed this while watching the Messenger Lectures, which Feynman delivered at Cornell in 1964; they screen these each January at MIT, and various university libraries probably have copies (I can't find them online).

In the fifth lecture, Feynman discusses the reversibility of physical laws, the idea that at a basic level, physical interactions look equally valid when seen going forward and going in reverse. Record a movie, conceptually speaking, of two atoms colliding. The collision obeys several principles: momentum is conserved, total energy is conserved and so forth. Now, run the movie through the projector backwards and check the energy and momentum. Lo, the collision when seen in reverse obeys the same natural laws. This is not like our everyday experience, in which wind-up toys run down and people grow old, where a direction of time seems very well defined.

Exploring this question, Feynman raises the point that any familiar object is made of a staggeringly large number of fundamental pieces. A box full of gas contains "billions and billions" of gas atoms.

I checked in **The Character of Physical Law**, the book made from these Messenger Lectures, and sure enough, "billions and billions" appears just where it should in chapter 5.

In other news, the discussion over **New Scientist** magazine and its editorial policies which I brought up here a while ago has had some repercussions:

Down a ways on that page, J. Baez writes,

"Having never run a magazine, my concrete suggestions would probably be naive. I suspect New Scientist is doing a pretty good job of what it’s aiming to do. And I suspect that Jennifer Ouellette is right: their dalliance with crackpots is not a matter of some occasional mistakes, but a deliberate editorial policy - an attempt to broaden their readership."

Be careful what you say: you might get referenced later!

I was there! It was really great (sorry Blake).

My favorite was the enforcer of the 2 minute time limit for prize winners, a.k.a. 'Miss Cutesy-Poo'. She was an adorable 5 year old who would head to the podium after the alotted time was up and repeatedly say "Please stop, I'm bored!" until the speaker was unable to take it anymore.

That and I got to throw a paper plane at a Nobel Laureate.

Not to spoil the fun, but the picture you display is not from Audoly and Neukirch, but rather from the another pasta-breaking experiment (curious affliction, that) that you refer to by Gladden et al. On the other hand, "your" picture is cooler than the bending one. Maybe sometimes accuracy should give way for aesthetics.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.