The 24/7 Lectures

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

transcribed by David Kessler, Improbable Research staff

As part of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, four of the world’s great thinkers were invited to give 24/7 Lectures. Each 24/7 Lecture was on an assigned topic. The lecturer was asked to explain that topic twice:

FIRST, a complete technical description in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS; and THEN a clear summary that anyone could understand in SEVEN (7) WORDS.

The time and word limits were enforced by the Ig Nobel referee, Mr. John Barrett, and by the Ig Nobel NSFW Indicator, noted New York Attorney William J. Maloney.

This article provides the complete transcripts of the 2016 24/7 Lectures.

Topic: Clock Genes

Lecturer: Rich Roberts (Nobel Laureate, Biochemist at New England Biolabs)

Complete technical description in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS:

“The original Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput, or CLOCK, gene encodes a basic helix-loop-helix-PAS transcription factor called CLOCK that is one of a family of genes that control circadian rhythm in mammals. More than 20 genes are involved, with such catchy names as “Period” and “Cryptochrome.” The products of many of them are…” [Time called by the Referee]

Clear summary that anyone can understand, in SEVEN (7) WORDS:

“Clock genes are responsible for jet lag.”

Topic: Duck Genital Morphology

Lecturer: Patty Brennan (Evolutionary Biologist and Behavioral Ecologist, specializing in the morphological evolution of reproductive structures)

Complete technical description in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS:

“In many species of ducks, males often fail to attract a mate, so they resort to forcing copulations on females. Males can sexually force females because their penis functions with an explosive eversion mechanism that quickly and forcefully inseminates females despite their resistance. Females, however, have co-evolved vaginas with dead ends and spirals that prevent full penis eversion when she is not receptive.” [Time called by the Referee]

Clear summary that anyone can understand, in SEVEN (7) WORDS:

“Deviant duck dicks foiled by fabulous vaginas.”

Topic: Time

Lecturer: Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Laureate, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University)

Complete technical description in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS:

“Time is precisely the difference between now and then. Cosmologists assure us that it began in a Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. The universe has been expanding ever since. Recent discoveries show the expansion is accelerating. If that continues the cosmos will become both infinite and eternal… “ [Time called by the Referee]

Clear summary that anyone can understand, in SEVEN (7) WORDS:

“Time and tide won’t wait for us.”

Topic: Fluid Dynamics

Lecturer: Nicole Sharp (Engineer, Ph.D., and creator of FYFD, the world’s most popular web site about fluid dynamics)

Complete technical description in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS:

“Fluid Dynamics — A branch of classical mechanics derived from 19th century hydrodynamics and hydrology that recapitulates the locomotion of mutable substances. Governed by a series of unsteady, nonlinear partial differential equations of the second order including continuity, energy, Navier-Stokes, and in some cases Maxwell’s equations and multi-species reactions. Subdisciplines include rheology, combustion, granular mechanics, aeroelasticity, magnetohydrodynamics, hemodynamics, lubrication theory, and quantum hydrodynamics.”

Clear summary that anyone can understand, in SEVEN (7) WORDS:

“If it can flow, we study it.”


This article is republished with permission from the November-December 2016 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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