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September 23, 2012

Shut up! Speech jammer among 2012 Ig Nobel winners

BOSTON (AP) — 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 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, wi

nning 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 Thursday 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.

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