Speech jammer among '12 Ig Nobel winners

By Mark Pratt

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 10:44 p.m. MDT

Artist Don Featherstone, 1996 Ig Nobel Prize winner and creator of the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament, poses with his Nancy while being honored as a past recipient during a performance at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. The Ig Nobel prize is an award handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for silly sounding scientific discoveries that often have surprisingly practical applications. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Associated Press

BOSTON — For anyone who's ever been tired of listening to someone drone on and on and on, two Japanese researchers have the answer.

The SpeechJammer, a device that disrupts a person's speech by repeating his or her own voice at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds, was named Thursday as a 2012 winner of the Ig Nobel prize — an award sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for weird and humorous scientific discoveries.

The echo effect of the device is just annoying enough to get someone to sputter and stop.

Actually, the device created by Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada is meant to help public speakers by alerting them if they are speaking too quickly or have taken up more than their allotted time.

"Winning an Ig Nobel has been my dream as a mad scientist," Kurihara said.

Other winners feted Thursday at Harvard University's opulent Sanders Theatre included Dutch researchers who won the psychology prize for studying why leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower look smaller; four Americans who took the neuroscience prize for demonstrating that sophisticated equipment can detect brain activity in dead fish; a British-American team that won the physics prize for explaining how and why ponytails bounce; and the U.S. General Accountability Office, which won the literature prize for a report about reports.

Rouslan Krechetnikov, an engineering professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, and graduate student Hans Meyer took home the fluid dynamics prize for research into the sloshing that goes on in coffee cup as it's carried.

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