Shut up! Speech jammer among 2012 Ig Nobel winners
Published : Sep 21, 2012 - 16:45
Updated : Sep 21, 2012 - 16:45
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.

``This technology ... could also be useful to ensure speakers in a meeting take turns appropriately, when a particular participant continues to speak, depriving others of the opportunity to make their fair contribution,'' said Kurihara, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Still, winning an Ig Nobel in acoustics for the device's other more dubious purpose is cool too.

``Winning an Ig Nobel has been my dream as a mad scientist,'' he said.

As usual, the ersatz Nobels were handed out by real Nobel laureates, including 2007 economics winner Eric Maskin, who was also the prize in the ``Win a Date with a Nobel Laureate'' contest.

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 a coffee cup as it's carried.

Like many projects that have won Ig Nobels in the past, it started in a casual conversation based on everyday observations.

Krechetnikov and Meyer were taking a coffee break at a conference last year when they watched as others milled around trying to prevent staining their clothes.

The science of sloshing liquids has been studied before _ in rocketry, for example, shifting weight can destabilize a missile or rocket _ but no one's ever really studied coffee as it splashes around, Krechetnikov said.

``It is one of those cases where we were interested in explaining the phenomena, but not changing it,'' he said.

The reason coffee spills?: A person's walking speed, their mental focus and, surprisingly enough, noise.

Are there practical applications? You could design a better coffee cup by using what Krechetnikov calls ``a series of annular ring baffles arranged around the inner wall of the container to achieve sloshing suppression,'' although those solutions are impractical.

``We just wanted to satisfy our curiosity and, given the results, to share what we learned with the scientific community through peer-reviewed literature,'' he said.

The 22nd annual Ig Nobels ceremony, with the theme ``The Universe,'' featured the usual doses of zaniness, including the traditional launching of hundreds of paper airplanes and the world premiere of an opera entitled ``The Intelligent Designer and the Universe,'' about an insane wealthy man who bequeaths his fortune to have someone design a beautiful dress for the universe. (AP)



<한글 기사>

‘시끄러운 수다쟁이들’ 대신 제어해 주는 발명품

2012 이그노벨상에 스피치재머 등 수여

회의나 토론회에서 다른 사람에게 말할 기회를 주지 않는 수다쟁이를 제어하기에 딱 좋은 발명품이 나왔다.

해마다 노벨상을 본떠 재밌고 기발한 과학적 발견에 부여되는 이그(IG) 노벨상의 올해 수상작 가운데 음향 부문상에 일본 과학자 2명이 만든 '스피치재머'(Speech Jammer)가 20일 선정됐다.

스피치재머는 어떤 사람의 목소리를 녹음해 수백 밀리세컨드(1천분의 1초) 차이로 지연해 내보내는 메아리 효과를 통해 혼동된 화자로 하여금 스스로 입을 다물 수 밖에 없게 만든다.

발명자 가운데 한 명인 구리하라 가즈타카(일본 산업기술총합연구소 연구원)씨 는 "이 기술은 회의에서 특정인이 주절주절 얘기할 때 방해를 함으로써 참석자들이 적절하게 돌아가면서 발언할 기회를 보장해 준다"고 설명했다.

구리하라씨 등은 이 기술을 공개한 뒤 계속해서 짖어대는 개나 선거철 거리에서 큰 소리로 떠들어 대는 방송 차량 등을 침묵시키기 위해 스피치재머를 활용할 수 있다는 제안도 받았다고 소개했다.

한 과학유머 잡지사가 후원하는 이그 노벨상은 올해 22회째로, 관례대로 미국 하버드대의 가장 큰 강의실인 샌더스 시어터에서 실제 노벨상 수상자들이 수여하는 방식으로 진행됐다.

2012 이그노벨 평화상은 오래된 탄약을 '나노 다이아몬드'(nano-diamonds)라는 새 다이아몬드로 바꾸는 기술을 이용, 사물을 튼튼하게 코팅한 러시아의 SKN사(社)

에게 돌아갔다.

SKN의 이고르 페트로프 국장은 "전쟁에서 파생된 파괴적 물건을 유용하게 바꾸는 것이 우리 회사의 목표 가운데 하나"라고 말했다.

이밖에 네덜란드 연구진이 왜 파리 에펠탑을 왼쪽으로 비스듬히 보면 더 작게 보이는지에 대한 연구로 심리학 부문 상을 받았고, 한 영미팀은 말총머리가 왜, 어떤 방식으로 흔들거리는지에 대한 연구로 물리학상을 받았다.