Un-boiling eggs, slippery bananas, and painful insect stings have been award-winning topics at the Ig Nobel ceremonies over the last few years.
Are these topics amusing? But then, do you find yourself thinking about how they could be useful too? That is the logic behind the Ig Nobel Prizes (pronounced “Ig-NO-bells”), which has been an annual event since 1991. The jury selects 10 winners based on their genuine research on funny topics.
The ceremony, held at Harvard University, has some amusing traditions too. The official mascot is 'The Stinker'! The awards are given out by actual Nobel Prize winners, who apparently find it quite bemusing. The audience is encouraged to dress in costumes of their choice, and given specific times to launch paper airplanes at the stage!
The ceremony last week was themed on 'Time' and included a mini-opera, 24-second mini-lectures, and a Tick Tock Toe competition. Let's take a look at some of the 2016 awards.
The Fascination With Animals
Charles Foster and Thomas Thwaites from the UK shared the Ig Nobel for Biology. Their experiments about living with animals were conducted separately.
Acting the goat? That's what Thomas did, by fitting himself with prosthetic limbs that allowed him to move about like a goat. He roamed the Alps with a flock of goats and later, even wrote a book on his experiments. Charles on the other hand, spent some time in the wild, trying out the lives of a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird. He felt it gave him a chance to explore the world around us with more of our senses than just vision alone.
Meanwhile, a team from Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland won the Ig Nobel for Physics. They studied why white-haired horses repel horseflies, and why dragonflies are attracted to black tombstones. The team used plastic horses covered in glue. They found that dark colors attracted more flies because of how sunlight reflected off them. To the horseflies, it was an indication of food. White color, on the other hand, causes sunlight to be diffused, and cannot be detected by the flies. This finding could explain other evolutionary features such as the white coats of zebras too.
Other Prizes Of 2016
Volkswagen was given an Ig Nobel in Chemistry for fitting their cars with special devices that could detect when the vehicle was being tested, and reduce emissions. This was a sly poke at the scandal which erupted last year. You can read more here.
A team from New Zealand and the UK won the Economics Prize for their study on the personality of rocks. Yes, you heard that right! They had students characterize different rocks as glamorous, independent, intelligent or other traits one would use to define people. This information could be used for the sales and marketing of rocks.
Another cross-country team won the Psychology prize for asking over a 1000 liars on why they lied. The team then had to decide whether to believe those answers at all. Fredrik Sjöberg was awarded the Literature Prize for his autobiographical work on collecting live and dead flies.
For the most unusual take, Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi from Japan won the Perception Prize for their analysis of whether things seem different when you bend forward and look from between your legs. So do you think things look different that way?