The Hovalin: A real-time synesthesia translator

Written and submitted by Kaitlyn Hova

This guest blog post is by Kaitlyn Hova. Kaitlyn is a professional violinist, composer, full stack web developer, designer, neuroscientist, and core team member of Women Who Code. She is also a synesthete—which means her sensory perception is quite different from what most people experience. Kaitlyn spoke on the TEDMED stage in 2016, and you can watch her talk here.


Most people don’t expect their understanding of the senses to drastically change beyond what we learn in grade school: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. I was 21 years old when I made the jarring discovery that none of my fellow students experienced vivid colors and shapes when they heard musical notes. At first, my classmates called this ability “weird”. Actually, I later learned the official term: “synesthesia”! Finding out that you physically experience the world in such a fundamentally different way can feel isolating. However, it turns out that 1 out of 23 people have some type of synesthesia. What if the study of this ability that was once thought to be “strange” is actually the study of the diversity of the average human sensory experience?

Matt and Kaitlyn Hova, co-founders of Hova Labs

I had always wanted to find a way to accurately convey my experience of seeing sound. I believed that if people could see a simulation of my synesthesia in real time they would be able to make the jump to understanding the nature of it. With this idea in mind, my husband Matt and I co-founded Hova Labs three years ago. One of our first projects was creating a real-time sound → color synesthesia translator violin. Imagine a guitar tuner, but instead of the tuner showing the note “C” it shows what I see when I hear the note “C”, which is the color red. Further, imagine that the brightness of the color is driven by the volume of the instrument being played. (I should be clear, the colors that I experience when I hear notes of music are an experience that is unique to me. If we both hear the note “C” and you see blue but I see red, neither of us is “wrong”, we simply have different associations in our brain.)

Creating a synesthesia-translating violin wasn’t easy—it took us a year and a half of prototyping. We could have easily just strapped LEDs on any violin but we had a VISION: a synesthesia translator glowing violin. First, in order to figure out how to drive the lights inside of our violin, I created a color-coded map of a piano. Additionally, we knew we wanted the violin holding the synesthesia-driven lights inside of it to be translucent, yet at the time (2014), such an instrument didn’t exist (or if it did, it was probably way too expensive). Determined to make our vision a reality, we decided to take our concept a step further. We created The Hovalin: our 3D printable acoustic violin.

Piano keys through the eyes and ears of synesthete Kaitlyn Hova

In October of 2015, we released the Hovalin, and we made it available for anyone to download online along with a short shopping list of materials and “how-to” build instructions. Since the launch, we’ve continued to improve the design. You can see me playing our v3.1 design in my TEDMED talk!

After launching the Hovalin, we soon realized that our project had the potential to be a lot larger than we originally thought. Though today’s music education programs are systematically underfunded, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) grants are introducing 3D printers to kids at these same schools. We saw this as an opportunity: why not 3D print your music program?

Creating instruments with 3D printers is a solution that has never existed before. Today, all of the files are available to download for free at hovalin.com. If you have access to a consumer-level 3D printer, the total cost (including plastic, tuning pegs, strings, and bow) is $65. And this is just for one violin. With bulk purchases, we believe that this cost could be reduced drastically.

We already have a pilot program in Oakland, California, and we hope to expand to more schools around the country and the world. We believe that STEM programs can empower kids to solve their problems creatively while supporting the often under-funded music education programs in schools. We attribute our diverse backgrounds in music and tech to creating the Hovalin, and who knows what other great projects will come from kids that are given the chance to think creatively with STEM programs.

If you’re interested in learning more about Synesthesia, I encourage you to check out The Synesthesia Network. Also, you can check out more nerdy violin electronics in this blog post at Hova Labs.

The 21 Million

Written and submitted by Emtithal Mahmoud

This guest blog post is by Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud, the reigning 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and 2016 Woman of the World Co-champion. Emi spoke on the TEDMED stage in 2016, and you can watch her talk here.


My grandmother, Nammah, never learned to read or write—where we came from, girls were forbidden from doing so. In May of 2016 I, her granddaughter, surrounded by friends and family, graduated from Yale University and closed the ceremony with something I, a woman, had written. But a number of factors had to fall in place before my family was able to reach that point.

Nearly 19 years before then, my mother, father, younger sister, and I had boarded a plane in Yemen, green cards in hand, after having left Sudan for safety well before. At the time, my father, a surgeon, and my mother, a medical lab technician, were exactly the kind of people history likes to laud as proof that immigrants are capable of incredible things—testaments to the triumph of humanity in the face of adversity. However, this valuing inherently comes at a cost, as if achievements represent human worth.

2 IDP women

Photo credit: Afaq Mahmoud, 2017
Two internationally displaced people speaking on women’s rights and how the war affects women, specifically focusing on the importance of education. Many women in the camps understand the necessity of their role in finding a way forward. Their names have been excluded for protection.

Today especially, with more than 65 million people displaced worldwide, 21 million of whom have become refugees, we often point to the attractive accomplishments of a select few as proof that refugees are worth saving and reduce the rest to a series of numbers.

What this focus on value or inherent worth suggests: in today’s world, if I and my grandmother were both contemporaries seeking refuge, I would be deemed worth the humanity, and she, a woman ultimately responsible for my entire existence, would not. What’s more, with recent policies, my family and I—even with the credentials that once could save us—would have been turned away once for Sudan, the country we were born in, and again for Yemen, the country in which we initially sought refuge. Together, our entire family would be seen as another component of the 21 million.

Loss is deeply personal, and yet we see it on a global scale almost every day. When this happens we become desensitized. Reversing that process and putting people back in front of the numbers is incredibly difficult, but incredibly necessary. This is precisely why I and we must speak of the individuals entrenched in the conflicts front and center in our world and not of their future success or earning potential. The most valuable thing we will miss is human life. There’s still so much to be done for all my sisters who will not have the same opportunity to prosper, or on even the most basic level, to survive.

Young student at Zamzam refugee camp school

Photo credit: Afaq Mahmoud, 2017
A young student at Zamzam refugee camp school in Northern Darfur. The photo was taken two weeks after an attack on Zamzam camp in 2015. In the absence of resources, the school depends solely on the work of volunteers, and its students and teachers live in constant fear of impending attacks.

I am often asked how it is that I stand by my identity and why I write and speak with conviction, despite the ramifications that may come with being a young, black, American, Afro-Arab, Muslim, woman. I often answer that it is because of my grandmother and the sacrifices that she and people like her have made and continue to make. I speak because my grandmother did not get the chance to and I am not alone. Earlier this year I joined the How to Do Good speaking tour with a series of incredible philanthropists and activists (including Fredi Kanouté, former West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla striker and founder of Sakina Children’s Village, and Dr. Rouba Mhaissen, an economist and activist featured in Forbes 2017 30 Under 30, and the founder of SAWA) and we’ve made it our mission to inspire positive action. This initiative, and so many like it, is exactly what we need to reignite empathy in a world that seems to have lost it.

Infant receiving medical treatment

Photo credit: Afaq Mahmoud, 2017
An infant receiving treatment at Zamzam refugee camp in Northern Darfur. The medicine she requires isn’t readily available in the remote region.

I believe that when we are spoken to politically, we are compelled to respond politically, when we are spoken to academically, we are compelled to respond academically, when we are spoken to with hate, we are compelled to respond with hate; but when we are spoken to as human beings, we are compelled to respond with our humanity. In this global moment with endless pressing questions and not many daring to answer them, my challenge to you is to respond with your own humanity.

Visit Emi on Facebook to learn more about her latest work.

Engage with RWJF at TEDMED 2016

Last year at TEDMED, we kicked-off a conversation with our partner, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), around building a Culture of Health – a movement to improve the health and well-being of everyone in img_2000America. Our discussion last year focused on Making Health a Shared Value, one action area of the RWJF Culture of Health Framework, and this year we’re excited to explore another action area – Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities. This conversation will be inspired by your perspective and input about what makes your communities – the places where you live, work, learn, and play – healthy, and the role we can all play in making them healthier, and more equitable.

From now throughout TEDMED 2016 and beyond, we look forward to creatively exploring RWJF’s 2016 TEDMED What If? question: “What if we valued our community’s health as much as our own?”

We’ll start this conversation with a pre-event #healthycommunities social media campaign – so join us on Twitter @TEDMED and @RWJF to share your thoughts about the importance of #healthycommunities and pictures of healthy places in your own community. We’re starting today, so look for these prompts and share your responses – we’ll incorporate them into an installation in The Hive onsite in Palm Springs!

How could grocery stores better support a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How would you reimagine playgrounds to build a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How could parking lots be used to create #healthycommunities?

How can transportation policy better support #healthycommunities?

Also, stay tuned for a ten-part Blog Series, curated by RWJF, showcasing the real and tangible ways that communities around the country are implementing programs focused on health and equity. Featuring each of the seven RWJF 2016 Culture of Health Prize winning communities, and several guest posts from TEDMED community members, this series is sure to inspire us all to improve the health and equity of our own communities.

img_2011Continuing what we hope is a robust and dynamic conversation and engagement on-line leading up to TEDMED, a Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities Lunch will take place in Palm Springs on Thursday, December 1st. Over lunch, the entire TEDMED Delegation will gather as a community to explore programs, activities and policies that play a vital role in creating healthier, more equitable communities and help to build a Culture of Health around the country.

We can’t wait to hear from you and learn about the big and small ways that you are improving the health and equity of your community!

What is Culinary Medicine? Q&A with John La Puma

Nutrition specialist, chef, author, and practicing physician John La Puma lives and works on an organic farm in California. He makes his garbanzo guacamole recipe on the TEDMED stage while sharing his philosophy that the food we eat is as important as the pills we take, a key component of preventive health and our well being.  On the TEDMED Blog, John elaborates on culinary medicine and what role patients may have taking charge of their health and even educating their physicians about how to consider nutrition as part of the treatment plan.

John La Puma on culinary medicine

“Food is the most important healthcare intervention we have against chronic disease.” John La Puma, TEDMED 2014. Photo: Jerod Harris for TEDMED.

Why does this talk matter now?

Patients who ask their doctors, “What should I eat for my condition?” really want answers. Meanwhile, clinicians are clamoring for more and better information and training on nutrition. Culinary medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine to yield high-quality meals and beverages which aim to improve the patient’s condition. It is already being taught in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education.

What impact do you hope the talk will have?

I hope that the talk will help accelerate the cultural shift in healthcare towards wellness and well-being as primary goals in medicine. People need to know that some physicians care deeply about helping them become well with what they eat.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

Our mission is to inspire health-conscious consumers to look, feel and actually be measurably healthier by what they eat. The opportunity to use culinary medicine to prevent and treat disease is substantial, and culinary medicine should be considered as part of both the medical history and treatment plan in medicine.

How would medicine change if your ideas become reality?

All clinicians should be able to write culinary medicine prescriptions and know how food, like medicine, works in the body. I’d like to see condition-specific food and lifestyle measures become something that clinicians can offer, effectively, before prescription medication for most chronic conditions.

What is your core belief about culinary medicine?

Everyone has a right to clean, healthful, delicious, real food that both satisfies their appetite and makes or keeps them well…before it may be too late to offer more than comfort food.

Please share anything else you wish you could have included in your talk.

70% of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, memory loss, premature wrinkling and impotence are preventable. 80% of cancers and much of asthma and lung disease are preventable, and from environmental causes, like toxin exposure or diet.*  Knowing more about what’s in your food and how it got there can help you take your own health into your own hands, save you money and provide joy and energy for those you love. With culinary medicine, health-conscious people can live life to its youngest.

Ask your doctor, “What do I eat for my condition?”  If he or she doesn’t know, do your own research- here’s my list of resources.

Now it’s time to try John’s Luscious & Rich Garbanzo Guacamole recipe!

1 ripe medium avocado, preferably Haas

1 medium clove of garlic, peeled, diced and creamed with lime zest

1 medium serrano chile pepper, stemmed and diced, but not seeded

1/4 teaspoon minced lime zest, preferably organic

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 medium lime)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, COOC preferred

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder, such as Madras curry

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

5 sturdy springs cilantro or Italian flat leaf parsley (optional)

Cut the avocado in half long-wise around the pit and separate the halves. Remove the pit.

Use a spoon to scoop around the flesh and remove it in one piece.

Place upside down on a cutting board, dice into large chunks. Scoop up and place in a large stainless steel bowl.

Add the garlic, chile, zest, juice and oil, and mix by hand with a fork or a tablespoon.

Smash the chickpeas with the flat side of a chef’s knife, to break the skin. Sprinkle the curry and black pepper on the garbanzos, add to the bowl, mix again, and top with herb garnish if desired.

Serve with corn tortillas or toasted chips, sliced jicama triangles and sliced cucumber circles. Enjoy!

Nutritional Data Per Serving (3 servings):193 calories, 17 g carbs, 14 g fat, 3 g protein, 125 mg sodium, 7 gram fiber.

Adapted from La Puma J. “ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine”, Crown, 2008.

(c) John La Puma, MD, Santa Barbara, CA, 10.2013

*See John’s TEDMED bio page for references and resources that support these claims.

Why be normal? Q&A with Rosie King

Rosie King diagnosed herself with a high functioning form of autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) at age nine and has become a spokesperson for autism in the United Kingdom, including hosting an Emmy award winning BBC documentary on the subject. Shortly after her 16th birthday, she spoke on the TEDMED 2014 stage about her journey.

We asked Rosie a few questions to learn more about her remarkable story.

Why does this talk matter now?

I think the ideas I share in my talk have always mattered.  Society is at a stage where it is beginning to understand equality– I want this to move on from addressing racism and sexism, to addressing discrimination in all areas.  This is the only way to have a civilized society.

Gratefully not normal: "I wouldn't trade in my autism and my imagination for the world." Rosie King, TEDMED 2014.

“I wouldn’t trade in my autism and my imagination for the world.” Rosie King, TEDMED 2014. Photo, Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED.

What legacy would you like to leave?

I want everyone in the world to know that it is important to be themselves.  I come from a family where everyone is different.  We could be a sad family but we have always been encouraged to be proud of ourselves and celebrate our talents.  If the whole world was like my family then it would be a joyful world.  I want to take a little bit of my family’s attitude out there.  It could be like flicking a switch, and I hope that my talk will be that switch.  To ask someone to be anything other than who they really are is cruel, like killing their real self.  Also, that genuine self that could bring so much color to the world!

What did you learn at TEDMED?

Denise [TEDMED speaker coach] taught me about body language and how to speak to a big audience–  that was useful.  I also listened to a very interesting talk [Rebecca Adamson] about how Native American people were treated.  This made me very upset but also glad that it was being brought to light.

For all inquiries regarding speaking engagements or to learn more about her current work, please contact Joanna Jones.

Keep up with Rosie and her family on their blog, My Perfectly Imperfect Family, and check out the books Rosie has illustrated authored by her mother, Sharon.

Reimagining an old technology: Q&A with Drew Lakatos

Engineer and entrepreneur Drew Lakatos, CEO of ActiveProtective, created a smart garment that uses airbag technology to protect the elderly from hip fractures when they fall. We caught up with Drew and learned more about his work and experience at TEDMED 2014.

Reimagining

Reimagining an old technology. Drew Lakatos, TEDMED 2014. Photo: Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

We are introducing a new technology (that repurposes an old one) that most people will scratch their heads the first time they hear or see it.  Only after studying the problem, as well as its size and scope, does it become clear that there really is no other way to prevent hip fractures in the frail elderly.  By sharing it at TEDMED, we hope to raise awareness and begin familiarizing it as an intuitive treatment for those at highest risk.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

This talk matters now because of the seismic shift required to shift our “sick-care” system to a “healthcare” one by introducing, proving, and promoting preventive technologies that can completely avoid these tragic, expensive, death-sentence episodes of injury.

What were the top TEDMED2014 talks that left an impression with you?

I was shaken watching Marc Koska’s hidden video of a healthcare worker sharing needles of HIV+ patients. I was moved by Debra Jarvis’ warmth and honesty, and inspired by her heartfelt talk. I was touched, confused, and still processing Bob Carey’s Tutu Project. I don’t know where to store the images in my head, and loved his raw honesty.

How ultrasound became a disruptive innovation

Resa Lewiss, Director of Point-of-Care Ultrasound and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, unlocked imaginations about ultrasound applications in her talk at TEDMED2014. She explained why and how ultrasound at the bedside has become a game changer for clinical care.

She recently took a moment from her duties in Denver to share more about her work and impressions of TEDMED.

Resa Lewiss: How Ultrasound Has Become a Disruptive Innovation

Reas Lewiss at TEDMED2014. Photo by Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

I attended TEDMED2013 in Washington DC. I was inspired by the people, the space and the vision of TEDMED. I believe that the arts inspire creativity and innovation. And innovation begets innovation. I live the aphorism mens sana in corpore sano, [a sound mind in a sound body]. TEDMED does too.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

This talk will hopefully deconstruct healthcare silos. Point-of-care in partnership with ultrasound can be a concept that is difficult to comprehend. I hope to have connected the dots between the technology and the resultant improvement in patient care- for health care providers, people in tech and people in the world. The safety profile, time efficiency and cost effectiveness are self-evident.

Tell us about the top 3 TEDMED2014 talks or performances that left an impression with you.

Jill Vialet: Sobering reminder for ourselves and loved ones. Play is healthy.

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz: Back to basics, obvious and inherent and yet never quite articulated in this way before.

Bob Carey: Honest and emotional. Much respect for his willingness to show his vulnerability; a sobering performance.

Robin Guenther: She hit it on the head. Who is looking out for the healing and healers? Thank goodness she is. Mens sana in corpore sano.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

One of quality, integrity, justice, honesty, excellence, and mindfulness.

Contact Resa to learn more about how to encourage point-of-care ultrasound curricula integration at all medical schools and for all providers.

Resa Lewiss at TEDMED2014. Photo by Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED.

“Think Big”: Q&A with Eric Chen

At TEDMED 2014, Eric Chen urged us to think big and never stop asking questions. Halfway through a very exciting first semester at Harvard, Eric Chen checked in with TEDMED to answer a few questions we had about his talk.

What motivated you to tell your story on the TEDMED stage?

I see huge untapped potential in kids and nonscientists all over the world, especially in this day and age when the Internet has given all of us so many resources unavailable in the past. However, so many people seem to be intimidated by scientists and the idea of research—they don’t believe they can do something so seemingly complex or sophisticated. I saw the TEDMED stage as a platform from which I could share my story and let them know about their own potential.

Eric Chen takes the stage at TEDMED 2014. - Jerod Harris

Eric Chen takes the stage at TEDMED 2014. – Jerod Harris

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

In today’s age, we will need more and more scientists and innovators to tackle the challenges on the horizon—from pollution to overpopulation. To solve these daunting problems, we will need bold, daring thinkers not afraid to ask the unasked question. It is important that everyone knows they can contribute, regardless of their background or situation, and that a groundbreaking discovery can be just a question away.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

I hope that my message can encourage more youth and nonscientists to think big, and to participate in science, research, and medicine. I would like to help spread the democratization of knowledge, science, and medicine.

Taking Eric’s advice, we didn’t stop asking questions there.  In the spirit of curiosity, we tacked on a few fun questions for your enjoyment:

If you could meet your 10-year-old self, what would you tell him?

I would tell him that I now know how to time travel, and then go collect my Nobel Prize.

If you were immortal for a day, what would you do?

I would completely wreck the world record for most time with breath held underwater.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

I would meet Richard Feynman. I’ve always admired not only his scientific ability but also his curiosity and sense of humor.

A right-to-die ethicist faces her hardest choice

Peggy Battin spent most of her academic work exploring a contentious topic that many of us shy away from: decision making at the end of life. Peggy’s field of study took an almost unbearably personal turn when it became time for her husband, Brooke, to decide how to die following a near-debilitating cycling accident.

We reached out to Peggy, asking her to tell us more about what she thinks makes her TEDMED 2014 talk an especially timely one that can help us better understand the current debate over physician aid-in-dying. Here is her response:

Think about the competing tensions over how we die—on the one hand, the desire to be self-determining as much as possible, even at the very end of life, and on the other, the worry that giving people control over their own dying will leave them open to pressures, expectations, and abuse.

I want to be able to die when I want, where I want, with the people I love around me; but I don’t want to be pushed or cajoled or forced into it—not by family members or friends, not by overworked doctors, not by profit-motivated insurers.

Peggy Battin speaks at TEDMED 2014.  Photo: Jerod Harris, TEDMED.

Peggy Battin speaks at TEDMED 2014. Photo: Jerod Harris, TEDMED.

These tensions are fanned by activist groups on both sides. On the one side are the various right-to-die groups, like Compassion and Choices, the Final Exit Network, and many others; physician aid-in-dying, usually called Death With Dignity, has already become legal in four (and a half) U.S. states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and parts of New Mexico. Physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia are also legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. There are active court cases and/or legislative measures in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and much of the developed world.

Why must I be kept alive at such expense when, if I am dying, I would rather die in an earlier, easier, gentler way? That should be my basic right.

On the other side, opposing these measures on the grounds of both moral concern and fears of abuse, are a variety of groups implacably opposed to euthanasia in any form, from the disability-rights group Not Dead Yet to the Catholic Church.

But, you see, if there are such cost savings to be had, don’t you think you might be pressured into it? That’s what “death panels” are all about.

These tensions are further stoked by changes in background epidemiology and concerns over health care costs. The vast majority of people in the developed world now die slow deaths, deaths of heart disease, cancer, various forms of organ failure, the dementias, all of which have characteristically long downhill tail-off slopes, patterns of decreasing function that can also involve pain and suffering, and that also may involve substantial demands on family members and health care. As the populations of the developed countries become increasingly “gray,” this problem intensifies.

Against these tensions, this talk portrays one man’s life and the death that he chooses, a death that is on the border between these two camps: Because it involves the withdrawal of treatment, it legally and morally counts as a “natural” death, but because it involves this man’s own choice of time, place, and the people around him, including medical staff, it looks very much like an assisted death.

Notably Ig Nobel: Science humor

Author and newspaper columnist Marc Abrahams is the editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. At TEDMED 2014 he shared laughter- and thought-provoking stories behind some of the winners of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, which he founded and hosts. Almost all humor aside, Marc snuck away from his duties for a few moments to answer questions for us.

Marc Abrahams at TEDMED 2014: Science Humor

Marc Abrahams at TEDMED 2014. Photo: Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

People are sometimes given very serious advice about their health by Very Important People who know little and assume much. Look at the crazy advice that some politicians and some journalists are giving us — “Don’t vaccinate your kids!”, “Ebola was created by evil people who want to attack the American public!”. If someone — no matter who it is — tells you something that seems absurd, the best thing you can do is laugh, if it strikes you as funny… and then go find out the facts, and think about them. And THEN decide what you think about their advice.

What kind of meaningful or surprising connections did you make at TEDMED?

Three people each told me about scarily good candidates for future Ig Nobel Prizes. I probably would never have heard of any of those nominees if I hadn’t gone to TEDMED. (Sorry — I am not permitted to tell you anything about those nominees. We have rules, y’know.)

What is the legacy you want to leave?

I hope I helped at least a few people decide that it’s okay to make their own decisions — rather than simply accept what some authoritative person told them — about what’s good and what’s bad, and what’s important and what’s not.  

Anything else you wish you could have included in your talk?

Well, of course I wanted to tell the story of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. But there wasn’t time. And anyway, Kees Moeliker, the scientist who made that discovery, is the best person to tell that story, which he did in an obscure biology journal, and then at the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and then again years later in a TED talk.

Can you share some highlights from the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony?

The on-stage demonstration of the technique that won this year’s Ig Nobel Prize for medicine. It was awarded to a team from the U.S. and India for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds using the method of nasal packing with strips of cured pork. Before that night, I had never in my life met anyone who had disguised himself as a polar bear to frighten a reindeer. I am very pleased with the premiere performance — as part of the ceremony  — of “What’s Eating You”, the mini-opera about a couple who decided to stop eating regular food, and instead get all their nutrients from pills. The lead singers were magnificent, and so was the chorus of their intestinal microbes.

What was your favorite winner from the 2014 Ig Nobel prize ceremony?

I am entranced by the Nutrition Prize winners — Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, who published a study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.” They could not travel to the ceremony, so instead sent us a mesmerizing half-minute-long video in which they explain what they did and why, and then eat some of the sausage. MA2