Every year the Ig Nobel prize awards celebrate scientists who have made real, but ridiculous and funny sounding contributions to science. The awards never fail to provide an amusing insight into the strange things that some scientists spend their time studying, and this year’s ceremony on Thursday night in the English university town of Cambridge was no different.
This year’s anatomy prize went to Frans de Waal from the Netherlands and Jennifer Pokorny from the United States, who jointly discovered that Chimpanzees can recognize their friends from pictures of their bottoms. The researchers noted that human beings may have lost this skill since we started wearing trousers.
The winners of the neuroscience prize conducted research that was firmly in the spirit of the awards themselves. They used complex instruments and statistical methods to find meaningful brain activity in a dead salmon. The conclusion of the research was that scientists shouldn’t trust complex instruments and statistics so much.
Johan Pettersson won the chemistry prize for discovering why living in certain houses in the Swedish town of Anderslov makes blond hair turn slightly greenish. Apparently is has something to do with taking cold showers.
Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada from Japan won the the acoustic prize for showing that when you are speaking, hearing your own words played back with a slight delay disrupts your speech.
A Russian company called SKN won the Ig Nobel peace prize for successfully converting old Russian ammunition into diamonds.
The psychology prize went to a team of Dutch researchers who found out that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower look smaller. Apparently its down to an effect called ‘posture-modulated estimation’.
This year’s literature prize went to the US Government General Accountability Office, for reporting about reports about reports; unfortunately nobody attending the ceremony to collect this prize.
Joseph Keller and Raymond Goldstein from the US and Patrick Warren and Robin Ball from the UK took home the physics prize for a study which was able to explain mathematically why ponytails swing from side to side when their owners are running. In a similar vein the Fluid Dynamics prize went to Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer who studied the way your coffee sloshes around in the cup when you walk with it.
Finally, the medicine prize went to Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti from France, who discovered the best way to perform colonoscopies without causing an explosion. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how often doctors cause explosions whilst performing this procedure.