The annual Ig Nobel Prize, celebrating the best of the worst academic research of the last year, have just been handed out, answering that age-old question: is it more painful to get stung by a bee on the shaft of the penis or your top lip? Or is it true that all mammals pee for roughly the same amount of time, regardless of their size? Or whether fastening a stick onto a chicken will show you how dinosaurs walked?
The Ig Nobel Prize, now in its 25th year, honours the very serious academic research into these seemingly trivial topics, and has proven to be the silliest awards ceremony in the world. Designated to honour the “research that makes people laugh, and then think,” the show was created by Improbable Research. The website is dedicated to seeking our studies that are “maybe good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless,” taken from 2000 academic journals and scientific periodicals.
The idea isn’t just to poke fun, though there is a lot of that; the 10 winners are chosen from a competitive field of more than 9,000 nominees, and receive their actual awards from genuine Nobel laureates at a routinely sold-out show attended by 1,100 people.
The Ig Nobel trophy, made from an empty flower pot and letters from the element charts, is hoisted up during a performance at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University [AP Photo/Charles Krupa]
It’s a night for nerds to nerd out, to revel in a bit of silliness, and for everyone else to laugh at and with them. You can watch back the whole hammed-up show at the bottom of the post, and the winners of this year’s prizes are as follows:
- Chemistry: For inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg, the prize was award to Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston, and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss.
- Physics: For testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds), the prize was awarded to Patricia Yang, David Hu, and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo.
- Literature: For discovering that the word "huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language – and for not being quite sure why – the prize was awarded to Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, and Nick J. Enfield.
- Management: For discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that – for them – had no dire personal consequences, the prize was awarded to Gennaro Bernile, Vineet Bhagwat, and P. Raghavendra Rau.
- Economics: The Bangkok Metropolitan Police in Thailand, for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.
- Medicine: For experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities), Hajime Kimata, Jaroslava Durdiaková, Peter Celec, Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana SedláÄková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik took the prize.
- Maths: For trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children, the prize was awarded to Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer.
- Biology: Fr observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked, Bruno Grossi, José Iriarte-Díaz, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, and Rodrigo A. Vásquez were named winners.
- Diagnostic Medicine: For determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps, Helen F. Ashdown, Nigel D'Souza, Diallah Karim, Richard J. Stevens, Andrew Huang, and Anthony Harnden won.
- Physiology & Entomology: Jointly awarded for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm), and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft), Justin Schmidt and Michael L smith took the prize.
On Newstalk's flagship science show Futureproof, host Jonathan McCrea spoke about the Ig Nobel prize and the science behind it. Listen back to his interview below:
You can watch back the awards ceremony below: