Archive for the 'Humor' Category


Posted by Eric on February 5th, 2008

Like all of you, I get my daily dose of spam. This one sneaked through both of my spam filters, but that was of course because it isn’t spam. It fights spam. If you have been a victim of “all sorts of internet crime that arose from South Africa, Ghana and especially Nigeria”, just contact these nice Nigerian officials. There’s five and a half million dollars waiting for you. Or maybe not? Click the picture and judge for yourself…


Machines I want

Posted by Eric on January 31st, 2008

Now, isn’t this frustrating. After a hard day’s work, putting all effort in converting my thoughts to text, I read this: Philip M Parker is the world’s fastest book author, and given that he has been at it only for about five years and already has more than 85,000 books to his name, he is also probably the most prolific. Parker himself says the total is well over 200,000.


So how does Philip M Parker (professor of innovation, business and society at Insead in France) do all that? When he turns to a new subject, he seizes and shakes it till several books, or several hundred, emerge. Parker invented a machine that writes books. He says it takes about 20 minutes to write one. I don’t know what kind of device this is, but I am sure I want one! Beats an iPod, Kindle or a Mac Air anytime. Next week, the Education Guardian Weekly will have a closer look at the machine…

Update: here is how it works and here’s a video

The Department

Posted by Eric on December 21st, 2007

Earlier this year Daniel Drezner discussed why there will never be a reality show about academia. Well… this is not reality, but pretty funny nevertheless. The Office Department: a merger between the Kennedy School of Government and the Government Department at Harvard.

The difference?

They (Kennedy School of Government) want to go and save the world. What we (Government Department) want to do is save the political science profession. I don’t know which job is tougher. Probably the latter.

[ht: CoreEcon / Dani Rodrik]

Xmas Workaholism among Scientists

Posted by Eric on December 20th, 2007

A remarkable letter in today’s correspondence section of Nature. For some odd reason, a group of scientists from Oxford and the National University of Singapore thought it would be a good idea to investigate the level of research activity of scientists during the holidays.

In order to find out how many submissions were made to academic journals on Christmas Day between 1996 and 2006, Richard Ladle, Ana Malhado and Peter Todd searched Google Scholar for articles received on 25 December. Even taking into account the overall increase in the volume of submissions, there were about 600% more manuscripts received by journals on 25 December in 2006 than in 1996.


Proportion of published papers submitted on 25 December relative to mean number submitted on the 25th of the month (excluding weekends) for all other months in that calendar year. R2 = 0.69.


And the winners are…

Posted by Eric on October 5th, 2007

Yesterday was the single most (ok, second most) important 2007_Prizeannual event for science: the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1991 for those scientific achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. They ‘celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology’.

In Harvard University, great scientists gathered to hear who would follow in the footsteps of eminent illustrious intellectuals like:

Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit. (Winners Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology, 2004)

Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Lawrence Dill of Simon Fraser University [Canada], Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Magnus Whalberg of the University of Aarhus [Denmark], and Hakan Westerberg of Sweden’s National Board of Fisheries, for showing that herrings apparently communicate by farting (Winners Ig Nobel Prize for Biology, 2004).


Indonesia Too Democratic?

Posted by Eric on June 11th, 2007

Can a country be too democratic? Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, thinks it can be. The Jakarta Post reports on his visit to China, and it seems like Kalla is quite impressed by what is going on in China. If only Indonesia was a bit less democratic they would be able to make the same progress as China is making.

“China’s strength is that it can plan and implement. Our system, which is too democratic with too much individual freedom that often disregards the rights of others, has made it difficult for us to build infrastructure”

“As long as individual right is above public responsibility, we will not progress… That’s the only problem we have now.”

A strong government role can help economic development, as is shown by Indonesia’s neighbors Singapore and Malaysia. But going the same way as China is simply not an option for Indonesia anymore, after almost 10 years of democracy. And despite all the troubles in its short history of democracy, the country is showing progress. Progress not just in terms of economic development but also in terms of intellectual and artistic freedom. Sure…Indonesians might hit the streets a few times too many, but I guess that’s a healthy sign, even though it might not always correspond with the governments plans.

An interesting example is the TV show Newsdotcom, better known as ‘Republik Mimpi‘ or the Republic of Dreams (below is an item on the show by Australian current affairs programme Dateline). (more…)

Top 15 Controversial Honorary Doctorates

Posted by Eric on April 19th, 2007

The tradition of awarding honorary degrees stems from Oxford University. These degrees were first awarded here in the 14th century and were given mostly to academic scholars. Nowadays the recipients range from academics to politicians to artists. Lately there has been quite some controversy about a few universities that had awarded Robert Mugabe an honorary degree. To my knowledge our most popular honorary degree recipients must be dr.dr.dr.dr. Václav Havel and dr.dr.dr. Nelson Mandela. Mandela has at least 30 honorary degrees – next to a long list of other awards. Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, collected at least 46 honorary degrees. Every single one of them well deserved. In the following 15 cases that wasn’t so sure…


Let’s start in Canada. On June 16, 2005 the University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Morgentaler, a longtime abortion activist. This decision by UWO’s senate honorary degrees committee generated opposition from Canadian pro-life organizations. Over 12,000 signatures were acquired asking the UWO to reverse its decision to honour Dr. Morgentaler.


Yusuf Islam (formerly known as singer Cat Stevens) was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Gloucestershire. The year before that he was questioned about his alleged links with terrorists. He endorsed the fatwa on writer Salman Rushdie and refuses to shake the hand of a woman.



My former employer, Twente University decided to award an honorary doctorate to Abdurrahman Wahid (better known as Gus Dur). This was just after he became the first (indirectly) democratically elected president of the Republic of Indonesia. If they had only known that a year later Gus Dur became involved in a corruption scandal (known as the Bulog-gate), a scandal in which Wahid’s masseur and business partner allegedly stole $3.6 million from the state food agency, Bulog. Obviously questions arose within the university whether they should still award him the degree or not. I think they went on with it because Wahid would receive the doctorate for his lifetime work as leader of Indonesia’s largest (moderate) Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama and also because he was not personally involved in the scandal. Whether he ever received the doctorate, I don’t know. I hope he did!! Things became rather quiet after a while….


Another one from Canada. Controversy erupted when Ryerson University conferred an honorary degree on medical ethicist Margaret Somerville. A number of faculty from Ryerson and other universities and students vocally protested Somerville views that children’s rights are violated when they are adopted by same-sex couples.


Arnold Schwarzenegger, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin Superior. The award recognized Schwarzenegger’s contributions to health and fitness, speaking out against prejudice, and creating positive opportunities for inner-city children.


Mike Tyson- Boxer and High School dropout received a Doctorate in Humane Letters in 1989 from Central Ohio State University. Another boxer, George Foreman received an honorary doctorate from the Houston Graduate School of Theology on Saturday for his charity work with children.


Bill Gates – the chairman of Microsoft will get an honorary degree from Harvard on June 7 this year. Maybe not really controversial, but funny considering that Gates once studied mathematics at Harvard but then dropped out after 2 years. But he did fine without the degree…


The University of Queensland in Australia awarded a doctorate to its longest serving State Prime Minister. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen however was not exactly impeccable …he turned out to be a corrupt populist.


Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori‘s honorary doctorate was received in 1992 and revoked in 2001! He received it from his Alma Mater “National Agrarian University” in Peru, where he studied, taught and served as rector. They stripped him of an honorary doctorate for ‘ethical reasons’.


Recent controversy in the Australian National University. They awarded Lee Kuan Yew an honorary doctorate, and – to say it mildly – the faculty weren’t all too happy about that. He is Singapore’s founding father, Prime Minister from 1959-1990 and current ‘Minister Mentor’ under his son Lee Hsien Loong. Well….basically he is Singapore. He brought Singapore a lot of economic prosperity and was a little less concerned with individual liberties, press freedom and academic freedom. On top of all that he stated in the 1980s that Australians were destined to become the “poor white trash of Asia”. The Australians didn’t really appreciate that.


Number 6 is for my own Alma Mater, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. As a University close to the German border they decided to award an honorary doctorate to Helmut Kohl, the former Chancellor of Germany. But – just as the other Dutch case at nr.13 – their Doctor to be became involved in a corruption scandal (Das System Kohl)in the Christian Democratic Party CDU. In the end he did receive his honorary doctorate in October 2000.


In 2002, the University of Wolverhampton awarded honorary degrees to glam rockers Slade, whose creative approach to spelling was displayed on 1970s hits such as Mama Weer All Crazee Now and Gudbuy t’Jane.


This one actually shouldn’t be here, since they never got to awarding the honorary degree. The most famous rejection was of Margaret Thatcher, who was snubbed by Oxford academics while she was prime minister. She was the first Oxford graduate turned PM that did not receive the honorary degree…


Then there is of course Robert Mugabe or Dr Dictator. He was awarded honorary degrees by Edinburgh University (1984), the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1986) and Michigan State University (1990). The President of Zimbabwe, was showered with praise when he helped establish the independence of his country, formerly Rhodesia, in 1979 and end white rule when he won the first open elections as prime minister. But a lot can change in 30 years


And the indisputable number 1. In 1996 Southampton College at Long Island University awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters to Muppet Kermit the Frog. Although some students objected to awarding a degree to a puppet, Kermit delivered an enjoyable commencement address and the small college received considerable press coverage.

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