Funny Science – The Nobel Ig Awards


Ceremonies to give away the Ig Nobel prizes were in full effect Thursday night. Amongst the projects being considered last night were papers on sexually confused beetles, the reasons behind people’s sighs, and a patent for a wasabi emergency alarm.

The awards were being presented by the scientific humor magazine “Annals of Improbably Research” – an organization that has been giving out such awards for the past two decades to highlight achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers.

Confused Beetles Mate with Bottles

The biology prize of the evening was given away to a team of scientists that discovered that certain kinds of beetles try to mate with particular kinds of short, dark beer bottles in Australia called “stubbies,” which they mistakenly think are female beetles.

The team’s paper was called “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistakes Stubbies for Females” and in it they write: “Lastly, a comment should be made about the fact that improperly disposed of beer bottles not only present a physical and ‘visual’ hazard in the environment, but also could potentially cause great interference with the mating system of a beetle species.”

Japanese researchers walked home with an award in the chemistry category. Their award was for an odor-generation alarm that they’re already trying to patent; it’s based on the sushi condiment wasabi. Japanese researchers who have applied for a patent for an odor-generation alarm based on the pungent sushi condiment wasabi received the chemistry prize.

A third team of scientists got the prize in the medicine category for coming up with a result that seems like common sense to some. These researchers managed to demonstrate that how badly one needs to urinate can affect decision-making and impulse control, hardly a shocker.

Other Winners

Other winners for the night include research that examined why we sigh, whether or not yawning is contagious in the Red-Footed Tortoise species, reasons why discus throwers get dizzy but hammer throwers don’t, and one particular topic that half of the world would probably find useful: “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done.”

And after some of the more useful awards came the tongue-in-cheek awards, including the public safety award for experiments where a person tries to drive on a highway with their sun visor coming down over their face, effectively blinding them. Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, got the peace prize for “demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored truck,” according to the official Ig Nobel statement.

And lastly, a few people received awards for their end-of-the-world predictions that turned out to be false. Amongst them was Pat Robertson who predicted that the world would end in 1982. According to their statement, his award was given for “teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.” This year marked the 21st ls Nobel Awards ceremony.