Ig Nobel Prize 2018 – When Papers are Rewarded for being Funny & Scientifically Accurate

The 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, was on Thursday, September 13th, 2018, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Prizes are given out to the funniest, most outlandish research produced from around the world. This peculiar event is hosted by the Annals of Improbable Research and held at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University since 1991. Not to be confused with the prestigious Nobel Prizes, each of the following studies actually appeared in a legitimate scientific journal. Subsequently, each has received the highest honor that questionable, bizarre and downright funny science can aspire to: the Ig Nobel Prize.

Remembering one of our favorite Prizes from 2017 in Physics : Marc-Antoine Fardin for using fluid dynamics to probe the question ” Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid ? When we thought there was a clear line between solids and liquids, this research questions this with good arguments. A liquid is always taking the shape of the container it is in, where a solid is resistant to changes of shape. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container. Yet, every cat owner knows that time when it crawls into a shoebox or vase and morphs perfectly into its shape. This article not only illustrates (with fun cat pictures) but demonstrates the possibility to use cats as models for both a solid and a liquid form (https://www.drgoulu.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Rheology-of-cats.pdf). Research doesn’t stop here and bewilderment continues as more papers come out every year on unpredictable subjects such as this last one are published.

🏆 We are happy to share this list of this year’s 2018 Ig Nobel winners that is unlikely to disappoint. 

The “ ►” indicating the link directly accessing the FULL articles that is in #OpenAccess

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA] — Using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.

The story all started with a patient reporting that one of his kidney stones became dislodged after a trip on the Big Thunder Mountain ride. So, to research whether it was a coincidence or not, Prof. David D. Wartinger built a silicone model of his patient’s renal system, including artificial kidney stones, and took it with him on numerous attractions. Certain rides helped ! He discovered that Big Thunder Mountain was more efficient because it involves more up and down and side to side movements. These rattle the rider and dislodge kidney stones more effectively than rollercoasters that involve big drops – such as Space Mountain or Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster.


  • REFERENCE: “Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster” Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger

ANTHROPOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, ROMANIA, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, UK, INDONESIA, ITALY] — Collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees

Jane_Goodall.jpgResearchers reveal the social divide between chimps and humans isn’t as clear cut as once thought. Observing both animals and visitors at a zoo, researchers discovered about 10% of the actions produced by one species was an imitation of the other species. “The actions that were copied (such as hand clapping and kissing or knocking on windows) by both humans and chimpanzees were neither novel nor original and suggest that imitation was not at all about learning. The goal seemed to be purely social and communicative in nature”, says Tomas Persson. 


  • REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors” Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen

BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND] —  Demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine

These researchers discovered that they themselves could distinguish between odours from males and females as they showed that females flies produce a species specific sexual pheromone that attracts flying flies at a distance. The team enlisted, for a minor side study, a panel of eight wine tasters and asked them to examine glasses of wine. Some glasses had previously contained a female fly for 5 minutes or only trace amounts of pheromone, some had held a male and others had no contact with flies. The tasters all rated wines in the glasses that had contained female flies as having a stronger, more intense and somewhat unpleasant smell. This suggests that even if you quickly remove a fly, it may already have spoiled your wine: “A female fly can ruin your drink”

► https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/04/01/206375.full.pdf

  • REFERENCE: “The Scent of the Fly” Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall

CHEMISTRY PRIZE [PORTUGAL] — Measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces

The use of human saliva to clean dirty surfaces has been an intuitive practice for many generations. The authors have established the scientific basis for this practice by means of qualitative tests and chromatographic techniques. The main constituent responsible for the cleaning power of saliva was found to be a-amylase and therefore amylasic preparations obtained from bread or from microorganisms were tested as saliva substitutes.

  • REFERENCE: “Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces” by Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Medical report “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy”

Akira Horiuchi, who works at a hospital in Nagano Prefecture, performed experiments to see if he could insert an endoscope through his anus to examine his colon. Horiuchi wrote this report which concludes that based on his experience, the task is both easy and effective.

  • REFERENCE: “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope” Akira Horiuchi and Yoshiko Nakayama

LITERATURE PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, EL SALVADOR, UK] — Documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual

read-manual-signage.pngThe study presented in this paper was carried out to provide empirical evidence to confirm, or not, the widely held belief that consumer users don’t read documentation. The acronym RTFM (‘read the field manual’, or more rudely ‘read the f***ing manual’ (Wikipedia.org, 2013)) is often used to exhort users to refer to user manuals, but several authors have claimed that this is often not what people do. They found that manuals are not read by the majority of people, and most do not use all the features of the products that they own and use regularly. Men are more likely to do both than women, and younger people are less likely to use manuals than middle-aged and older ones. More educated people are also less likely to read manuals. Over-featuring and being forced to consult manuals also appears to cause negative emotional experiences. Implications of these findings are discussed.


  • REFERENCE: “Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products” Alethea L. Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson

NUTRITION PRIZE [ZIMBABWE, TANZANIA, UK] — Calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.

Human cannibalism is a subject that continues to hold a morbid fascination within modern societies. In particular, identifying the motivations for human cannibalism remains a contentious issue. Our understanding of prehistoric cannibalism has increased exponentially over the last few years thanks to methodological advances and increasing interpretive rigour when examining and recognizing anthropogenically modified hominin remains. This paper presents a nutritional template that offers a proxy calorie value for the human body. Results show that humans have a comparable nutritional value to those faunal species that match our typical body weight, but significantly lower than a range of fauna often found in association with anthropogenically modified hominin remains.


  • REFERENCE: “Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic” James Cole

PEACE PRIZE [SPAIN, COLOMBIA] — Measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile 

Traffic accidents are a major cause of death and injury in the world. Generally speaking about aggression, evidence has shown that drivers who use to express more aggressive behaviors tend, at the same time, to have higher rates of road crashes or traffic incidents. The aim of this study was to describe the factors and perceptions related to aggressive behavior of verbally insulting and shouting out while driving. As a conclusion, there are a high prevalence of this phenomenon among Spanish drivers. Furthermore, most of the aggressive expressions related to shouting and cursing on the road ate preceded by subjective factors such as stress, fatigue and personality traits, which may be intervened thorough the strengthen of road safety education and road safety campaigns. 


  • REFERENCE (1): “Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment” Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Maria-Luisa Ballestar
  • REFERENCE (2): “La Justicia en el Tráfico: Conocimiento y Valoración de la Población Española” [“Justice in Traffic: Knowledge and Valuation of the Spanish Population“)], F. Alonso, J. Sanmartín, C. Calatayud, C. Esteban, B. Alamar, and M. L. Ballestar

REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, JAPAN, SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT, INDIA, BANGLADESH] — Using postage stamps to test whether the male sexual organ is functioning properly

download-1.jpgA stamp technique was developed to detect complete nocturnal erections for the evaluation of impotence. The test correctly detected complete nocturnal erections in 22 potent men and absence of complete nocturnal erections in 11 impotent men. This is a simple (very visual), useful screening test for organic impotence.


  • REFERENCE: “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps” John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michael Boileau

ECONOMICS PRIZE [CANADA, CHINA, SINGAPORE, USA] — Investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses

Did you ever feel outrageously angry against someone? Would it make you feel a little bit better if you could, say, torment a voodoo doll? Professor Lindie Hanyu Liang and co. have investigated such things. In return for a $1 payment, 195 full-time employees living in the US or Canada participated in an experiment in which they were given the opportunity to retaliate (after recalling an abusive workplace scenario) against an online Voodoo Doll, provided by Dumb.com (“Your source for dumb stuff”) was found that the doll-tormenting did help (in some degree) to alleviate the negative feelings associated with recalling abusive supervision incidents.

  • REFERENCE: “Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice” Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping

🎉 That wraps up about all the subjects that were prized this year. Who know what crazy discoveries will be nominated next year !

Can’t wait to read the seriously barking mad discoveries of next edition.  

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