October 1997 mini-AIR

Rohit Khare (rohit@bordeaux.ICS.uci.edu)
Thu, 30 Oct 1997 20:41:29 -0800

[What font of serious discussion will follow the "HMO Black Event"? What will
be edited into the Science Friday broadcast of the Igs? And can Barney's
puppetmasters sue? all this in the latest miniAIR... RK]

From: Marc Abrahams <marca@wilson.harvard.edu>
To: Multiple recipients of list <mini-air@chem.harvard.edu>
Subject: mini-AIR Oct 97 -- The 1997 Ig Winners, etc.

The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
Issue Number 1997-10
October, 1997
ISSN 1076-500X
Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the
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A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in
The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR),
the journal of inflated research and personalities

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1997-10-01 Table of Contents
1997-10-02 mini-Housekeeping Notes
1997-10-03 What's New in AIR
1997-10-04 Million Microbe March
1997-10-05 The 1997 Ig Winners
1997-10-06 Hot About Cold Fusion
1997-10-07 Tower of Babel Project 2000
1997-10-08 Museum of Left Feet
1997-10-09 MIR Disclaimer
1997-10-10 Small Jerks
1997-10-11 LAWSUIT UPDATE: Someone Wants YOUR Address
1997-10-12 Welcome, Welcome!
1997-10-13 Sing, Sing, Sing a Song of Singmaster
1997-10-14 Revocation of Lather Brushes Regulation
1997-10-15 Barney: An Emotional Confrontation
1997-10-16 AIRhead Project 2000
1997-10-17 May We Recommend
1997-10-18 AIRhead Events
1997-10-19 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
1997-10-20 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)
1997-10-21 Our Address (*)
1997-10-22 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

This is mini-AIR, a free monthly *supplement* to the print
magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).

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1997-10-02 mini-Housekeeping notes

1. THE '97 IG WINNERS: are listed below in section 1997-10-05.

2. LAWSUIT: We have now posted the entire text of George Scherr's
absurd anti-AIR lawsuit on our web site (www.improb.com). For an
update on the latest developments in the case -- including
GEORGE'S PLAN TO OBTAIN YOUR ADDRESS, see section 1997-10-11

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1997-10-03 What's New in AIR

Here are some alluring abstracts from volume 3, number 6 (the
Sept/Oct 97 issue) of the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).
3:5 is a special Parapsychology Issue.

Features in the issue include:

"An Astrology Chart for Bacteria," by Karen Hopkin. Despite the
glut of horoscope books, there have never been any printed
astrological guides for bacteria. The author has filled that void.
Includes photos.

"The Non-Linear Dynamics of Reincarnation," by Ben Waggoner. The
author presents the first complete non-linear mathematical
analysis of the dynamics of reincarnation. All previous models
were linear. Among other things, he demonstrates that fractal
images are literally, not just metaphorically, "pictures of God."

"Biological and Biomagnetic Processes of the Subspecies Homo
Sapiens Lupus," by Charles Edgar Calvert III. The author presents
a classical approach to understanding physiological and anatomical
changes that sometimes characterize members of the werewolf ethnic

"NOBEL THOUGHTS: Phil Sharp," by Marc Abrahams. Nobel Laureate
Sharp shares his insights about peas.

And much, much more...
Full text and illustrations of these and many other articles and
citations (including the full citations for "Circadian sneezing"
and "They do get more attractive at closing time, but only when
you are not in a relationship") appear in the above-mentioned
issue of AIR.

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1997-10-04 Million Microbe March

We are proud to announce the Million Microbe March. On December
29, 1997, a crowd of one million microbes will converge on
Bethesda, Maryland. They will meet there on the lawn of the
National Institutes of Health, and spend the entire day expressing
solidarity, atonement, and genes.
This is NOT going to be a celebration of diversity. While it
is true that microbes have participated in the Million Man March,
the Million Woman March, the Promisekeepers' March, and other
anthropocentric marches, the Million Microbe March is just for
There is a large spiritual aspect to the March. Too long
have too many denied the spiritual nature of the microbial
community. Too often have microbes been tormented or killed
because otherwise compassionate beings denied the simple fact that
microbes have souls.
We ask you to please remember the official slogan of the
Million Microbe March. If you or one near to you is going on the
March, please chant the slogan long, loud, and often:
Small is beautiful. Small is beautiful. Small is beautiful.

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1997-10-05 The 1997 Ig Winners

A new crop of Ig Nobel Prizewinners was honored at the Seventh
First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, held on October 9 before a
paper-airplane-throwing standing-room-only crowd of 1200 in
Harvard University's Sanders Theatre. The event was produced by
the the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and co-sponsored by
the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard
Computer Society and by the new book "The Best of Annals of
Improbable Research" (ISBN 0-7167-3094-4).
The Prizes honor achievements that "cannot or should not be
The Prizes were physically handed to the winners by several
genuine Nobel Laureates, including Dudley Herschbach, William
Lipscomb, Richard Roberts, and Robert Wilson. A worldwide audience
watched via a live Internet telecast. (The event was also
recorded, and will be broadcast on National Public Radio's "Talk
of the Nation / Science Friday" program on November 28, the day
after American Thanksgiving.)
The Nobel Laureates were active throughout the evening, in
many ways. Lipscomb was given away in a Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-
Laureate Contest. Plaster casts of the left feet of Lipscomb and
Herschbach, and also that of fellow Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert,
were auctioned off for the benefit of the Cambridge public schools
science programs. All the laureates joined soprano Margot Button
and Baritone Benjamin Sears in the world premiere of a new mini-
opera ("Il Kaboom Grosso") about the big bang.
Foremost among the eight Heisenberg Certainty Lecturers was
Boston University Chancellor John Silber. Dr. Silber's topic was
"A History of Free Speech from Early Times to the Present." Dr.
Silber exceeded the 30-second Heisenberg time limit, and was
ejected by the referee.
Here is a list of the 1997 Ig winners:

BIOLOGY: T. Yagyu and his colleagues from the University Hospital
of Zurich, Switzerland, from Kansai Medical University in Osaka,
Japan, and from Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech
Republic, for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they
chewed different flavors of gum. [Published as "Chewing gum flavor
affects measures of global complexity of multichannel EEG," T.
Yagyu, et al., "Neuropsychobiology," vol. 35, 1997, pp. 46-50.]

ENTOMOLOGY: Mark Hostetler of the University of Florida, for his
scholarly book, "That Gunk on Your Car," which identifies the
insect splats that appear on automobile window. [The book is
published by Ten Speed Press. Mark Hostetler came to the ceremony
to accept the prize. He also delivered a talk the following day at
the Ig Informal Lectures.]

ASTRONOMY: Richard Hoagland of New Jersey, for identifying
artificial features on the moon and on Mars, including a human
face on Mars and ten-mile high buildings on the far side of the
moon. [For details, see "The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge
of Forever," by Richard C. Hoagland, North Atlantic Books,
Berkeley, CA,1996.]

COMMUNICATIONS: Sanford Wallace, president of Cyber Promotions of
Philadelphia -- neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night have
stayed this self-appointed courier from delivering electronic junk
mail to all the world.

PHYSICS: John Bockris of Texas A&M University, for his wide-
ranging achievements in cold fusion, in the transmutation of base
elements into gold, and in the electrochemical incineration of
domestic rubbish.

LITERATURE: Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg of
Israel, and Michael Drosnin of the United States, for their
hairsplitting statistical discovery that the Bible contains a
secret, hidden code. [Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg's original
research was published as "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the
Book of Genesis," "Statistical Science," Vol. 9, No. 3, 1994, pp.
429-38. Drosnin's popular book, "The Bible Code," was published by
Simon & Schuster.]

MEDICINE: Carl J. Charnetski and Francis X. Brennan, Jr. of Wilkes
University, and James F. Harrison of Muzak Ltd. in Seattle,
Washington, for their discovery that listening to elevator Muzak
stimulates immunoblobulin A (IgA) production, and thus may help
prevent the common cold.

ECONOMICS: Akihiro Yokoi of Wiz Company in Chiba, Japan and Aki
Maita of Bandai Company in Tokyo, the father and mother of
Tamagotchi, for diverting millions of person-hours of work into
the husbandry of virtual pets.

PEACE: Harold Hillman of the University of Surrey, England for his
lovingly rendered and ultimately peaceful report "The Possible
Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods."
[Published in "Perception 1993," vol 22, pp. 745-53. The day after
the ceremony, Dr. Hillman telephoned to say that "I'd like to come
to the ceremony next year, if I'm alive. If I'm dead, I probably
won't come."]

METEOROLOGY: Bernard Vonnegut of the State University of Albany,
for his revealing report, "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado
Wind Speed." [Published in "Weatherwise," October 1975, p. 217.
NOTE: Bernard Vonnegut passed away in the spring of 1997. His son
Peter came to the ceremony to accept the prize. A further note of
interest: Bernard was the older brother of novelist Kurt

A full report on the ceremony will appear in the Jan/Feb 1998
issue of AIR. We will be posting other press clippings on our web
site (www.improb.com). If you see a press clipping in a print
publication, we would appreciate your sending us a copy.

We are now accepting nominations for next year's Ig Nobel Prizes.
Please send your entries to <marca@wilson.harvard.edu>.

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1997-10-06 Hot About Cold Fusion

Investigator Alan Berick, Ph.D. writes:
"I have just looked over the awards for the Ig Nobel prizes for
1997. I don't believe that John Bockris of Texas A&M belongs with
the rest. I believe that his work in Cold Fusion will come back to
haunt you someday."

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1997-10-07 Tower of Babel Project 2000

The staff of the Universal History Translation Project (UHTP) is
pleased to announce a further solicitation for translations of
"The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less" (AIR Jan/Feb
1997). The History has now been translated into Afrikaans,
Brazilian Portuguese, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English,
Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galego, German, Italian,
Occitan, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Welsh. Only one more
translation is necessary before "The History of the Universe in
200 Words or Less in 20 Languages or More" can be published in
AIR. Contact Eric Schulman <eschulma@NRAO.EDU>, the UHTP project
manager. The UHTP homepage can be found at

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1997-10-08 Museum of Left Feet

We have been granted the privilege of heralding the founding of
The Museum of Left Feet. Located in scenic Cambridge,
Massachusetts, the Museum will house plaster casts of left feet.
At present it contains two such feet, one cast from the left foot
of Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow, the other cast from the left
pedal apparatus of Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb. They were
purchased by the Museum's founder, Gordon Bennett, at Ig Nobel
Prize Ceremonies in 1996 and 1997. The official opening has not
yet been scheduled. The new Museum will be informally affiliated
with the Museum of Improbable Research (MIR).
Until the new museum's acquisitions facility is completed,
anyone who wishes to donate items (clean feet ONLY, please) is
requested to get in touch with us.

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1997-10-09 MIR Disclaimer

The MIR orbital research facility is in no way affiliated with the
Museum of Improbable Research (MIR). Any perceived resemblance is

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1997-10-10 Small Jerks

Investigator Renate A. Wesselingh writes in to recommend that all
concerned parties attend a talk sponsored by the New England
Molecular Evolutionists:

Date: November 1
Place: Osborn Memorial Laboratory, Yale University, New Haven, CT
9:00-10:30 Invited Talks - Main Lecture Hall, Rm 200
Dr. Lin Chao, University of Maryland
"Fisher, Wright and evolution by small jerks"

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1997-10-11 LAWSUIT UPDATE: Someone Wants YOUR Address

George Scherr, the man who is suing Marc Abrahams and AIR (see
below), apparently has plans to obtain your email address -- and
if he can find a way, your name, your mailing address, and your
phone number as well. Here are details.
George, as usual acting as his own lawyer, spent two days
(and plans to continue for who knows how long) taking a formal
deposition from Marc. During the deposition, George said that he
intends to use the lawsuit process to obtain a complete list of
mini-AIR subscribers. George also expressed a desire to obtain
your mailing address and phone number, and expressed unhappiness
and skepticism when told that the mini-AIR list consists only of
email addresses and, in many cases, the names people specified
when they added themselves to the list.

1. Does AIR want to give my address (and possibly my name) to
George Scherr or to anyone else?
>>> No. If you have been reading mini-AIR for any length of time,
you know that we have been campaigning AGAINST electronic junk
mailers and their unsolicited use of people's addresses. Many of
you have specifically requested that we not give out your
addresses. We will give this information to George Scherr only if
the court orders us to do so.

2. What does George Scherr intend to do with my email address and
my name?
>>> We don't know.

3. What can I do to prevent George Scherr from making use of my
email address and possibly my name?
>>> For obvious reasons, we are not going to recommend that you do
or not do anything as regards George Scherr. However, in any
event, please do not let George's yearnings or the lawsuit deter
you from reading (and perhaps writing for) mini-AIR or AIR!

BACKGROUND ON THE LAWSUIT (in case you missed it).............
As reported here last month, George Scherr has filed a lawsuit
against our editor, Marc Abrahams, and against AIR. George wants
us to (a) stop publishing AIR and (b) pay him $4.2 million.
George's lawsuit contains twenty (20) pages of accusations,
including conspiracy, fraud, trademark infringement, and (still
our favorite!) racketeering.
George is acting as his own lawyer. George told Marc several
years ago that he (George) had taken legal action against most of
the people with whom he had ever had business relationships,
including one of his children. George is the current (since 1994)
publisher of the Journal of Irreproducible Results -- in 1994 the
founders and entire (1955-1994) editorial staff of the Journal
resigned and created the Annals of Improbable Research. Marc was
the editor of the Journal from 1990-94.
If you would like to help us defray the legal expenses of
fighting this absurd, improbable lawsuit (and receive a nifty
certificate of thanks!), please send donations (whatever you can
contribute -- $25, $50, or $100, will help) to the following

Strategic AIR Defense Fund
c/o Robert Dushman
Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer
One Financial Center
Boston, MA 02111

Honorary co-chairs of the Defense Fund are Nobel Laureates
Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, and Richard Roberts.
If you have questions, please get in touch with Marc.

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1997-10-12 Welcome, Welcome!

We extend a warm "welcome, welcome" to the newest regular reader
of mini-AIR: Mr. George Scherr. During a recent legal proceeding,
George showed us that he has gone to the trouble of printing out
copies of each and every issue of mini-AIR. Apparently, George so
enjoys mini-AIR that he also demanded, through the lawsuit, that
we give him *additional* printed copies of all of those same
copies of mini-AIR. We have done so. Now George has at least two
printed copies of every issue. And we personally witnessed that
George enjoys reading aloud, from virtually every issue, the
portions of mini-AIR that are repeated verbatim in every issue.
Such devotion to fine literature is to be commended.

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1997-10-13 Sing, Sing, Sing a Song of Singmaster

October is International ASCII Month. In celebration, we present a
hiatus in our long-running coverage of the controversy aroused by
British mathematician David Singmaster. Singmaster daringly
published his view -- published it in an earlier issue of this
very publication -- that one should always use two spaces after a
period. We urge the public to use this time to calm down and
reflect on its frenzied behavior.

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1997-10-14 Revocation of Lather Brushes Regulation

Investigators Glenn Farber and Ron Josephson alerted us to a
document that is available from the US Federal Register Online via
GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov or www.access.gpo.gov/]. Please
disseminate this extracted information (below) to anyone who may
be in need:

21 CFR Part 1240 [Docket No. 97N-0418]
Revocation of Lather Brushes Regulation
AGENCY: Food and Drug Administration, HHS.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to
revoke its regulation pertaining to the treatment, sterilization,
handling, storage, marking, and inspection of lather brushes.
Development and Coordination Staff (HF-23), Food and Drug
Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857, 301-827-

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1997-10-15 Barney: An Emotional Confrontation

Strong reactions are being provoked by our new book, "The Best of
Annals of Improbable Research" (Marc Abrahams, editor, W.H.
Freeman Publishers, New York). After a book signing this month,
Marc wandered by a display booth maintained by the company that
produces the Barney television show. The woman in the booth was
standing beside a large plush Barney doll. Marc was carrying a
glass specimen jar containing a Barney in formaldehyde. The woman
glared at the specimen jar and said, "That's pretty weird." Marc
pointed to the large plush Barney doll, muttering, "And that's
not?" Marc thereupon presented the woman with an autographed copy
of the AIR book, opened the book to the article titled "The
Taxonomy of Barney," and disengaged from the encounter.

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1997-10-16 AIRhead Project 2000

Since June, 1994, we have been compiling a list of everything that
has 2000 as part of its name. Here are some randomly selected

ITEM 888-88-8 (submitted by investigator T.F. Divens)
AD 2000 CARBON FIBRE FOUNTAIN PEN, manufactured by Alfred Dunhill.

ITEM CN99F (submitted by investigator Maciej Soltynski)
410-2000, the telephone number of the Chief Engineer, Planning,
Municipal Traffic Control, Provincial Administration, Western Cape
(South Africa).

ITEM MC509322232-113 (submitted by investigator Richard Murnane)
MORSE 2000 WORLD CONFERENCE, held October 25-26, 1997, in
Bloomington, Minnesota.

ITEM 7208-GG (submitted by investigator Susan the Neon Nurse)
FASHION FORCE 2000, a new TV action drama that will star former
Baywatch object Pamela Anderson Lee.

ITEM HNMI-2K (submitted by investigator Muriel Hykes)
GEISINGER 2000, the logo on badges worn by some employees at the
Geisinger regional hospital in Pennsylvania.

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1997-10-17 May We Recommend

Research reports that merit a trip to the library.
(These items are additional to the many, many which appear in the
pages of AIR itself.)

"Biochemical Evidence that Patched is the Hedgehog Receptor," V.
Marigo, R.A. Davey, Y. Zuo, J.M. Cunningham, and C.J. Tabin,
"Nature," vol. 384, 1996, pp. 176-9. (Thanks to Lilly T. Fryman
for bringing this to our attention.)

"Sartorial Eloquence: Does It Exist in the Paediatrician-Patient
Relationship?," T.G. Barrett and I.W. Booth, "British Medical
Journal," vol. 309, 1994, pp. 1710-2. (Thanks to Mark
Featherstonehaugh for bringing this to our attention.) The author
"Advice to junior doctors might be that, if they are lacking self
confidence, a white coat may give an air of competence and
concern; casual clothes make them appear friendly but not
competent. These findings may be helpful to doctors in deciding
what to wear in everyday hospital practice."

"Cycling around the South Pole," Xiaojun Yuan, Mark A. Cane and
Douglas G. Martinson, "Nature," vol. 380, April 25, 1996, pp. 673-
4. (Thanks to E.K. Ramanan for bringing this to our attention.)

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1997-10-18 AIRhead Events

==> Updates of this schedule are available from info@improb.com
Want to host an event? E-mail to <marca@wilson.harvard.edu>

HMO BLACK EVENT, Harvard University Wed, November 18, 7 pm
Sponsored by EPIC, the Harvard undergrad organization concerned
with/about managed health care. (Building/room yet to be
specified.) Please see the Schedule portion of our web site
www.improb.com or send email to our autoresponder info@improb.com
or contact Enko Kiprilov 617-496-3802 <kiprilov@fas.harvard.edu>
or Nicole Rogers <nrogers@fas.harvard.edu>

NPR's "Talk of the Nation / Science Friday" program with Ira
Flatow. Annual broadcast of an edited version of the Ig Nobel
Prize Ceremony.

AIR Tour of America
Schedule to be announced. If you would like to host an event,
please email <marca@wilson.harvard.edu>

AAAS ANNUAL MEETING Sat, Feb 14, evening
8:45 pm, Marriott Hotel, Philadelphia. AIR authors Marc Abrahams,
Earle Spamer, Len Finegold, Eric Schulman, et al. will present
their annual special session as part of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

MIT Special Event. February (date/place to be announced)
Details TBA.

ASSOCIATION JOINT CONVENTION Fri, April 17, 1988, 1:00 pm
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Albuquerque Convention Center, Albuquerque,

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1997-10-19 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

Here's how to subscribe to the magnificent bi-monthly print
journal The Annals of Improbable Research -- (the real thing, not
just the little bits of overflow material you have been reading
here in mini-AIR)
City and State: Zip or postal code:
Phone: FAX: E-mail:
USA 1 year/$23 2 years/$39
Canada/Mexico 1 year/$27 US 2 years/$45 US
Overseas 1 year/$40 US 2 years/$70 US

[Copies of back issues are each $8 in the USA,
$11 in Canada/Mexico, $16 overseas.]
Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or
Visa, Mastercard or Discover info) to:
The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927 air@improb.com

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1997-10-20 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. It is NOT a tiny
version of AIR -- rather, it is overflow from the real magazine.
To subscribe, send a brief E-mail message to:
The body of your message should contain ONLY the words
(You may substitute your own name for that of Madame Curie.)
To stop subscribing, send the following message: SIGNOFF MINI-AIR
To obtain a list of back issues, send this message: INDEX MINI-AIR
To retrieve a particular back issue, send a message specifying
which issue you want. For example, to retrieve the issue dated
950706, send this message: GET MINI-AIR MINI-AIR.950706

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1997-10-21 Our Address (*)

The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

EDITORIAL: marca@wilson.harvard.edu
GENERAL INFO (supplied automatically): info@improb.com
SUBSCRIPTIONS: air@improb.com

WORLD WIDE WEB: http://www.improb.com/

We read everything we receive, but are unable to answer all of it.
If you need a reply, please include your Internet address and/or a
SASE in all printed correspondence.

A monthly column of improbable computer-related items appears on
the back page of Byte magazine.

a weekly column appears in clari.tw.columns.imprb_research

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1997-10-22 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever
appropriate. The only limitations are:
A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR.
B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.

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(c) copyright 1997, The Annals of Improbable Research
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EDITOR: Marc Abrahams (marca@wilson.harvard.edu)
MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last
few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson <posh@sirius.com>
(ringo@leland.stanford.edu) http://www.improb.com/
COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen (eigen@neu.edu)
CO-CONSPIRATORS: Gary Dryfoos, Craig Haggart, Deb Kreuze, Nicki
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon
Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts