Ig Noble Prize

The world is eagerly awaiting this year’s decision of Oslo’s Peace Nobel Prize Committee, chaired by Norway’s former Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland. While last year’s choice, Chinese human rights activist, literary critic, writer, and academic, dissident Liu Xiaobo was very much okay (not for his fellow countrymen, of course), the year before, the group around Jagland made a grave mistake when nominating President Barack Obama as Peace Laureate. And Obama did a mistake when not declining to accept the honor. Well, everybody was afraid (and he knew best) that his talent is holding nice speeches which differed from his later deeds. The Arab Spring is at risk to end in, no, not an “Iranian Winter”, as Israel’s hard line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prophesied in addressing the UN General Assembly, but rather an American Winter. So little has been achieved in Tunesia and Egypt while, after eight months, killings in Yemen and Bahrain are now, in a way, considered different than those in Syria. Not to talk about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, the strongest ally in the Middle East after Israel. No, Obama has clandestinely supported Egypt’s dictator for 30 years Husni Mubarak up to the last minute. In his speech on the Arab Spring he did not mention Saudi Arabia with a single word, the Kingdom which had just invaded the small Gulf island of Bahrain to brutally crack down the uprising of the Shi’ite majority (not minority, as misinformed Obama had claimed). And now he is about to maroon the Palestinians.

The Arab Spring and certain (largely unknown) protagonists are top on this year’s Peace Nobel Prize list. But so far, one doesn’t know where it leads. One might in fact wonder whether the huge treasure trove of diplomatic cables published by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks in last year’s autumn has ignited the uprising. People in the Middle East suddenly noticed how false the U.S. and the West played with North African and Middle Eastern citizens, nurturing their brutal dictators, including Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi) . If the Nobel Peace Prize was a Challenge Cup, Obama would now have the opportunity of handing it over to, well, Assange and PFC Bradley Manning, the young soldier who allegedly had leaked the cables and much more to WikiLeaks and who was first detained since May 2010 in maximum custody at Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, and later at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. We owe both a lot. That would also be a late indemnification of Jagland’s notorious committee. Both, Manning and Assange with WikiLeaks are among this year’s record number of 241 nominees.

I just read about this year’s laureate of the Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology, annually awarded at Harvard University (years ago, I have reported on the prize for Economy in 1996, see my blog entry “Floss or Die” here). “For achievements that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK.” It is Karl Halvor Teigen of Oslo University. He wrote about a very human emotional expression, the sigh.

Is a sigh “just a sigh”? Sighs as emotional signals and responses to a difficult task

Abstract. Sighing and the interpretation of sighs in everyday life seem never to have been the subject of psychological research. A questionnaire study of sighing showed that people associate sighing mainly with negative, low-intensity and deactivated emotional states. A second study investigated self/other differences in the interpretation of sighs in four hypothetical situations, revealing that sighs in other people are primarily perceived as signs of sadness, whereas own sighs are more often believed to express a state of “giving up” something or somebody. In a third experimental study participants worked on difficult (insoluble) puzzles, which generated many futile solution attempts, often accompanied by sighs. It is concluded that sighs are often unintentional expressions of an activity, plan or desire that has to be discarded, creating a pause before it can be replaced by a novel initiative. Scand J Psychol 2008;49:49-57. (No emphasis added.)

Jagland when eventually announcing his decision on the real Nobel Peace Prize on Friday next week might should have read the entire article.

Last update October 12, 2011.

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