By: JACK M.
We’ve all heard of the Nobel Prize, that prestigious annual award given to those individuals or teams who have made a significant contribution to the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, medicine, peace and economics (although the prize for economics was something of an afterthought—technically it’s known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences). But perhaps you haven’t heard of the Nobel Prize’s lesser-known cousin, the Ig Nobel Prize. Like the original, the Ig Nobel Prize is awarded annually to those who have contributed their time and resources in the pursuit of knowledge and technology that can only be described as, well…totally useless. And remember, these are not a bunch of weed-wasted high-school drop-outs still living in their parents’ basements; they’re real scientists working with real high-tech resources, in real laboratories and usually well-funded universities. What their efforts lack in practicality and ingenuity they more than make up for in uselessness and lunacy. But maybe I’m being a bit harsh; maybe all these researchers are doing is bringing a little levity to what is often seen as a dull, underappreciated and stuffy world. Some of these strange folk and their equally strange discoveries and revelations are at least fodder for a good laugh.
The 2015 Ig Nobel Prizes were recently awarded, and for their painstaking research into the length of time animals of different sizes take to empty their bladders (it turns out to be an average of 21 seconds, regardless of the size of the animals), Patricia Yang, David Hu, Jonathan Pham and Jerome Choo, all of Georgia Institute of Technology, were the recipients of the prize in physics.
Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, from Kitasato University in Japan, won the 2014 Ig Nobel prize in physics, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor.
With the collaboration of the University of Toronto and a number of universities in China, Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee won the 2014 Ig Nobel prize in neuroscience for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
Masateru Uchiya and his colleagues won the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize in medicine for assessing the effect of listening to opera on mice that have had a heart transplant. And while we’re on the subject of medicine, the 2012 prize in medicine went to a French team who studied the probabilities of patients exploding during colonoscopies.
The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize in literature went to the U.S. Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
And the 2010 prize in biology went to a group of scientists from Britain and China who felt it necessary to document the comings and goings of fruit bats while having oral sex (and to be clear, it was the bats, and not the scientists, that were having all the fun).