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IgNobility 2009
October 2, 2009 4:55 PM   Subscribe

This year's winners of the Ig Nobel prizes are a bumper crop of wild and crazy SCIENCE!, featuring sword-swallowing, knuckle-cracking, benefits of cow-naming, pregnant women NOT tipping over, a household use for giant panda poop (take that, Packham), diamonds made from tequila, a brassiere that can be used as TWO gas masks, "Ireland's Worst Driver", Icelandic banks, Zimbabwean currency, and a 'Peace Prize' earned by hitting people over the heads with beer bottles (and comparing the effects of empty vs. full bottles) (related inquiry)
posted by wendell (23 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
That panda poop thing sounds pretty awesome. I'd buy some for my composter.
posted by GuyZero at 5:19 PM on October 2, 2009


That's a waste of good tequila.
posted by brundlefly at 5:29 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon. When there is a lot of flu going around, who among us hasn't used the nearest brassiere as a face mask?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:37 PM on October 2, 2009


But. . . but. . . which one is "a girl's best friend" now?!
posted by Esoquo at 5:38 PM on October 2, 2009


"Full bottles broke at 30 J impact energy, empty bottles at 40 J. These breaking energies surpass the minimum fracture-threshold of the human neurocranium. Beer bottles may therefore fracture the human skull and therefore serve as dangerous instruments in a physical dispute."

This is relevant to my interests.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


which one is "a girl's best friend" now?!

I'm guessing the gas mask, but I suspect that would put me in the boyzone.
posted by wendell at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2009


For all your evidence-based brawling needs
posted by hattifattener at 6:42 PM on October 2, 2009


What do you use if you need three gas masks?
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2009


i think this year's awards are a bit on the lame side. 2002 with the necrophiliac ducks and last year's peace prize to Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity are some of the more awesome.

diamonds out of tequila is pretty cool too.
posted by liza at 8:31 PM on October 2, 2009


I'd thought these were a parody award, given to researchers of subjects the mundane world will never appreciate (things like penguin defecation patterns), that were written off as wastes of research funds, but the "Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK" tagline has made me reconsider. So maybe that doesn't foster world peace; labeling it ignoble ("characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness") seems unjustly dismissive.
posted by unmake at 8:37 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


SCIENCE in seven capital letters is science that I can believe in.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:01 PM on October 2, 2009




I love that the "Beer brawl" paper contains a "conflict of interest statement."
posted by wfitzgerald at 9:14 PM on October 2, 2009


And don't miss the awesome photo of (for-real) Nobel Prize laureate Wolfgang Ketterle modeling the aforementioned gas mask...
posted by range at 9:24 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey! Iceland's first IgNobel! Makes my Icelandic heart melt a little from joy.
posted by Kattullus at 9:28 PM on October 2, 2009


Turning tequila into diamonds isn't science, it's a weekend hobby.
posted by rokusan at 11:05 PM on October 2, 2009


My Polish students loved the Mr. Prawo Jazdy story.
posted by mdonley at 12:51 AM on October 3, 2009


What do you use if you need three gas masks?

Clearly, you haven't seen Total Recall.
posted by brundlefly at 1:34 AM on October 3, 2009


unmake : I'd thought these were a parody award, given to researchers of subjects the mundane world will never appreciate (things like penguin defecation patterns), that were written off as wastes of research funds

Originally, the IgNoble awards did only go to completely frivolous research, things no sane human would ever think of researching (or actually do so if somehow they did chance across the idea in a drunken fit of grant-writing).

But this year? Half of those sound like fairly meaningful, and potentially valuable, science.

Named cows give more milk? That has serious economic (and moral) implications, and warrants a number of followup studies - Do they do so because they "know" their name? Because named animals likely live on very small farms where they get better food and care or more emotional attention from their keepers?

And reducing kitchen waste by 90%? That sounds anything but frivolous, as we literally bury ourselves under our own garbage. As for the panda feces part, it actually makes sense - As herbivorous carnivores (as opposed to ruminant herbivores), they necessarily have some secret to how they extract enough nutrition from their food with such a relatively short digestive system. Intestinal bacteria seem like a good place to start looking for that secret.

Sorry, Improbable, but you need to do better if you want us take you seriously as the source for research we shouldn't take seriously.




posted by pla at 5:11 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unger's investigation, which has lasted more than 60 years, was inspired by childhood warnings he'd gotten from his mother that his habit of cracking his knuckles would lead to arthritis. To test this, since his teens he has been cracking the knuckles of his left hand at least twice daily but has never cracked the knuckles of his right hand (so it could serve as a control in the experiment).

"I'm looking at my fingers, and there is not the slightest sign of arthritis in either hand," said Unger, who in 1998 published his findings (conducted, he stressed, with no public funds) in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.


I am so pissed off about the decades of satisfying knuckle cracking I missed out on because my dumbass gym teacher warned me that I would get arthritis if I continued. I think he made this pronouncement right after he declared that you shouldn't swallow any water during heavy exercise as you will get cramps. Are gym teachers ever right about anything? Are they required to have degrees in education or do they somehow emerge fully formed from under of a pile of dirty towels and used jockstraps?
posted by digsrus at 5:56 AM on October 3, 2009


I actually like the transformation of the IgNobels from 'awards for pointless science' into 'awards for funny stuff plus science you'd tend to ignore because it SOUNDS pointless'. I mean, giant panda excrement? Just imagine the conservatives going off on the government "spending money on panda crap!" They'd completely obscure the fact that this is really interesting and worthwhile research. It only SOUNDS ludicrous.

If that's the new mission for the IgNobels, I am entirely in favor. Funny as hell, AND we learn something? That idea rocks.

I don't want to point and laugh at scientists, I want to snicker at their chosen subject and yet be very impressed with their results.
posted by Malor at 7:00 AM on October 3, 2009


Clearly, you haven't seen Total Recall.

Or Eccentrica Gallumbits.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2009


Whoa. I work with two of the recipients of the Physics Prize! This is so cool.
posted by not_on_display at 5:15 PM on October 3, 2009


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