It’s the science that makes you laugh, and then makes you think. It’s a tradition not nearly as established as the Nobel awards, and not nearly as reputable – since 1991, some of the planet’s best and most creative researchers have gathered each year to celebrate and appreciate the most ridiculous scientific discoveries which could actually have practical implications. They are presented by actual Nobel Prize winners, and they’re really fun: the Ig Nobel awards.
This year, winners published research on how to unboil an egg, how intense kissing can be useful, and which male body parts hurt the most when stung by a bee (spoiler alert: male genitalia is among the most painful). A full list of the winners and their studies will be published below.
The ceremony itself is delightful, featuring so-called “24/7 Lectures,” in which “several of the world’s top thinkers each explains her or his subject twice” – once in 24 seconds, and then in seven words that anyone can understand. Notable examples include “Firefly sex” and “Internet cat videos.” It’s really a fun night, but it shows another part of science, one which we don’t really think about that often: the science that seems silly and funny, but is actually important.
Who: Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [Australia], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA],
Why: Inventing a chemical recipe to partially unboil an egg.
Who: Gennaro Bernile [Italy/Singapore/USA], Vineet Bhagwat [USA], and P. Raghavendra Rau [UK/India/France/Luxembourg/Germany/Japan]
Why: Showing 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.
Why: Offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.
Reference: Numerous news reports
Who: Jointly, two groups – Hajime Kimata [Japan/China]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [Slovakia/US/UK], Peter Celec [Slovakia/Germany], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [Slovakia]
Why: Experimenting with the benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).
Who: Elisabeth Oberzaucher [Austria/Germany/UK] and Karl Grammer [Austria/Germany]
Why: Using 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.
Who: Diallah Karim [Canada, UK], Anthony Harnden [New Zealand/UK/USA], Nigel D’Souza [Bahrain/Belgium/USA/UK], Andrew Huang [China, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK],
Why: Determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.
Who: The most laudable researcher on the list, Justin Schmidt [USA/Canada, who painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects, and Michael L. Smith [USA/UK/The Netherlands] for arranging the bees to sting him.
Why: Figuring out, through direct practice, what parts of the human body hurt most when stung by a bee (nostril, upper lip, penis), and which hurt the least (skull, upper arm, middle toe tip).