The IgNobel awards for 2014.

Warning!! Humor ahead!


The IgNobel mascot: the Stinker

Every year, shortly before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced, a group of enterprising scientists and science enthusiasts gathers together to honor research that would otherwise never get noticed. Research that, in their words, “…makes you laugh, then think.” These are the IgNobel awards and they have been awarded every year since 1991.

This year’s award winners:

Some highlights:

1. The prizes are awarded by the Harvard Society of Physicists and the Harvard Science Fiction association. They choose a theme and the areas in which to award prizes. Past prizes have included: the 2004 Peace Prize to Daisuke Inoue, the inventor of karaoke.

2. The prizes are handed out by actual Nobel laureates who also participate in the whole ceremony in other ways (for instance, three Nobel laureates serenaded Mr. Inoue when he won the Peace Prize).

3. This year’s ceremony (which requires sought after tickets) was held September 18th at Harvard. You can watch the ceremony here:

4. Here is the complete program:

including the famous 24/7 event in which distinguished academics deliver a 24 second lecture explaining their field followed by a 7 second clear, accurate summary.

MacArthur Foundation (Genius) Awards


The MacArthur Foundation has announced its list of prize winners this year. These awards, sometimes colloquially called “genius awards” are given to extraordinary, creative individuals in a broad variety of field. This year’s awards spans fields as diverse as history, poetry, computer science, graphic novel writing and of course mathematics.

Among the award winners we are delighted to celebrate the recognition of two mathematicians: Jacob Lurie of Harvard University who is being recognized for his entirely new conceptual understanding of derived algebraic geometry.

(Shameless name dropping: Ye old blog master ran into Jacob Lurie back in 1998; I was a 4th year grad student, he was a junior in high school and we were in the same advanced graduate class in the Ph.D program at Maryland. Needless to say he was by far the best student in the class. He started the class knowing nothing about the subject and ended the semester giving an alternate proof of theorems in the most recent published papers in the subject.)

and Yitang Zhang of University of New Hampshire who recently (see earlier blog post) made a striking advance toward the resolution of the Twim Prime Conjecture.

You can find the full list of award winners here:

The prize carried an unrestricted award (no strings attached stipend) of $625,000 given out over 5 years to help the Fellows continue on their creative journeys. Let us celebrate the amazing contributions of all 21 award winners!

Job Opportunities in Norman

From Adrienne Jablonski, Director of Corporate Engagement in the College of Arts & Sciences:

Job openings at ISS, Institutional Shareholder Services:

ISS, formerly a division of MSCI, has a number of immediate openings available. They are seeking primarily technical positions but have a few non-technical ones as well.  They split from MSCI a couple months ago and plan on doing a lot of hiring! Please share these job descriptions with your students and recent graduates. It’s possible that they’ll have some internships as well. ISS has a location on OU’s research campus but is a global company. See the following document for more details.


OK job fair position document FINAL

For OU students especially A&S students, Adrienne Jablonski is available for resume guidance and interview prep.

Go get ‘em Sooners!!

Game about squares.


From the Department of “I have too much time and I want to waste some”, here is a fabulous game that you can check out. The beauty of it is that you figure out the rules as you go (the silly comments when you clear each level are just a bonus), and some mathematician (Jens Massberg) just wrote a paper on the game showing it is NP-hard.

Here is the game:

and here is the link to the article on NP-completeness:

What is NP-hard? Well… here you go:

Some cheap textbook alternatives.

The high price of textbooks is very much on the minds of most students. While these books have not quite been adopted in the standard curricula at most schools, these are still good options for self study, or to suggest to your instructors! The following link gives a sample of many cheap or free textbooks approved by a board of mathematicians at AIM (American Institute of Mathematics). Most of these books are free to download as PDFs.

Opportunities with BP

BP is recruiting freshmen and sophomores for their Discovery Day. This is for underclassmen to learn more about trading and supply and demand for an energy company. Students will gain valuable, real-world experiences in analytics, marketing, risk management, and supply and trading. Activities include simulations, case studies, and hands-on activities. Discover Day is on Friday, November 7 in Houston, Texas. All expenses (including travel, lodging, and meals) will be paid.
To qualify, students must be freshmen or sophomores, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and legally authorized to work in the U.S..
The application deadline is October 3! To apply, see
For current juniors, BP and Phillips 66 are accepting applications for their selective internship program for summer 2015. Students should apply through
For more information please contact Adrienne Jablonski in the College of Arts & Sciences (you can find her email at their website:

Power Costs Inc. (PCI) looking for interns

PCI is seeking outstanding students or recent graduates who wish to gain experience developing and implementing testing processes, performing software tests including functional, regression, etc.  Strong communication skills and proven ability to work in a team atmosphere are needed for this project.  Technical degrees and/or a strong interest in the technology field are especially helpful.

Interested students may apply at or may email Staci directly at


The PCI College Internship program is a structured, supervised, short-term opportunity for undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates to perform tasks that benefit PCI as well as providing the intern with knowledge and experience. Students in the PCI Internship Program have the opportunity to build on classroom theories to make real decisions and solve relevant problems. The typical internship at PCI lasts one semester and internships are offered in the Fall, Spring and Summer. Participating students are paid and may also receive academic credit from their university. For more information please visit