Some research projects (like Troy Hurtubise’s anti-grizzly suit) take a lifetime to complete; others just a couple of lunchtimes and a bit of time in the evening.
Frustrated at the number of group photos spoiled by one or more of her subjects blinking at precisely the wrong moment, Nic Svenson, with the help of fellow Australian Dr Piers Barnes, set her sights on discovering a way of guaranteeing blink-free photos.
Being scientists, they first broke down the challenge into simple parameters, like how often people blink, how long for and how fast camera shutters go. Next, they worked out the probability of someone blinking while a photo’s being taken, and lastly factored in the size of the group.
Based on this, the winner of 2006’s Ig Nobel Prize for Mathematics, for group shots of less than 20 people, you’ll need to take one third as many photos as there are people to be confident of a blink-free result in normal light, rising to half as many photos as people in bad light since the shutter stays open for longer.
Maybe if they had something fascinating to focus on – like a frog, levitating above the lens – people would blink less and ruin fewer photos. Ah, the power of scientific collaboration.