Sep 17 2013

And the Ig Nobel goes to …The Science of Beer Goggles

Shhh. The 1200 people packed into the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University put down their paper airplanes and signal to each other to be quiet. The time has come. Five genuinely bemused, genuine Nobel Laureates are about to announce the 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes for science.

Stinker 250The Ig Nobels were first awarded by the magazine ‘Annals of Improbable Resaerch’ in 1991. This year’s 24th award ceremony took place last week, under the watchful eye of the official mascot of the Ig Nobel Prizes, ‘the Stinker’ (almost by Rodin).

Ten winners are chosen each year. The journal says that’the Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative – and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.’ I believe this is an overly generous interpretation of the criteria. Judging by past winners, it appears that the Ig Nobels are awarded to the scientists who undertake the silliest research. You be the judge.

Shh. The real Nobel Laureates are talking. The 2013 winners are…

Ig Noble Prize for Psychology

– for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. Who would have thought?
REFERENCE: “‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine

– for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice. Handy to know.
REFERENCE: “Auditory stimulation of opera music induced prolongation of murine cardiac allograft survival and maintained generation of regulatory CD4+CD25+ cells,” Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi, Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, vol. 7, no. 26, epub. March 23, 2012. – See more at:

Ig Nobel Prize for Safety Engineering,

awarded posthumously to Gustano Pizzo [USA], for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane’s specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival. What could possibly go wrong.US Patent #3811643, Gustano A. Pizzo, “anti hijacking system for aircraft”, May 21, 1972.

Ig Nobel Prize for Physics
for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon. Bear Grylls may need this information one day
REFERENCE: “Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity,” Alberto E. Minetti, Yuri P. Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, Francesco Lacquaniti, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, e37300.

Ig Nobel Prize for Probability
– for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again. They get back down, they get up again.
REFERENCE: “Are Cows More Likely to Lie Down the Longer They Stand?” Bert J. Tolkamp, Marie J. Haskell, Fritha M. Langford, David J. Roberts, Colin A. Morgan, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 124, nos. 1-2, 2010, pp. 1–10.

The other five winners are at the Improbable Research Site.

Are there any scientists you would like to nominate for the 2014 Ig Nobels?

What I Learnt On 17th September in other years

17th September 2011 Take a Nap! Change Your LifeTake a Nap! Change Your Life

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