The Nobel Prize is awarded to a researcher or a team of researchers that have contributed significantly to our understanding of the universe. The IgNobels are not, ahem, as noble. They “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then makes them think.” In short, they are valuable yet ridiculous.
Here are the winners from last night’s ceremony, reproduced and edited from the IgNobel website (head here for full accreditation and references):
Physics: Researchers measured the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person stepped on a banana skin that’s on the floor.
“Measured frictional coefficient was about 0.07. This was much lower than the value on common materials and similar one on well lubricated surfaces.”
Neuroscience: Scientists tried to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
“Our findings suggest that human face processing has a strong top-down component whereby sensory input with even the slightest suggestion of a face can result in the interpretation of a face.”
Psychology: Study finds that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.
“We propose that in order to best enact a “cheater strategy” those high on the Dark Triad traits should have optimal cognitive performance and, thus, have a night-time chronotype.”
Public Health: Researchers consider whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.
“There is growing evidence to suggest that the relationship between cats and human mental illness, such as depression, warrants further investigation.”
Biology: Study carefully documents that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.
“Our findings open new horizons in magnetoreception research.”
Art: Scientists measured the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.
“Our results provide evidence that pain may be modulated at cortical level by the aesthetic content of the distracting stimuli.”
Economics: The Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics proudly took the lead in fulfilling the European Union’s mandate to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.
Medicine: Doctors treat “uncontrollable” nosebleeds using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.
“To our knowledge, this represents the first description of nasal packing with strips of cured pork for treatment of life-threatening hemorrhage…”
Arctic Science: Researchers tested how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.
“…We measured response distances for reindeer from a stalking polar bear and improvised five approaches from a person disguised as a polar bear for comparison with human encounters.”
Nutrition: A study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.” ‘Nuff said.
Do you have a favorite? I want to see a scientist trying to scare a reindeer in a polar bear costume, personally.
IMAGE: Associated Press