Since 1991, the Ig Nobel Prizes have selected 10 unusual, trivial, or utterly bizarre scientific studies that, in the words of the creators, “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Now in its 28th year, it continues to deliver awards to truly "improbable research."
Picking a favorite from this year is certainly difficult. A team from Portugal has measured to what degree human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces. For that, they were awarded the Chemistry Prize. The Anthropology Prize goes to a European team for noticing that in a zoo chimpanzees imitate humans just as much humans imitates chimpanzees.
Of interest to many, there is a study about how people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual. The authors were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature thanks to this research.
The winners of the Biology Prize tested the skills of professional wine tasters by looking at how they are capable of smelling the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine. In an even less palatable study, archeologist James Cole estimated the caloric intake of eating human flesh. It turns out we are not very nutritious compared to other animals. But as with all the studies, there is a serious reason behind the research.
Cannibalism is pretty common throughout human history and it is often assumed that humans have eaten each other for nutritional reasons. This study shows that this is likely not the case, earning the Ig Nobel Prize for Nutrition.
Delving into human aggression are the winners of this year's Economics and Peace Prizes. Peace goes to a Spanish and Colombian team who measured the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting while driving. They highlight how aggression while driving is tolerated as something inevitable, but also note that it poses a risk.
The Economics Prize goes to a study about workplace aggression, focusing in particular on why employees shout at their bosses even though they know it will likely hurt their career. The researchers gave the disgruntled employees a voodoo doll with the initial of their boss on it and found that they felt better after abusing it.
Three prizes are in medical disciplines. The Reproductive Medicine Ig Nobel went to a team who used postage stamps to demonstrate the occurrence of nocturnal erections in both potent and impotent people. The one for Medicine used an unorthodox approach when dealing with kidney stones, looking at whether being on a roller coaster helps to pass them more quickly. The seat at the back is the best at helping people pass the stones.
The Medical Education Prize goes to Dr Akira Horiuchi who showed how easy a colonoscopy can be by doing one on himself. While it might seem like a peculiar thing to do, many people worry about the procedure, which can be crucial for spotting signs of colorectal cancer.
The winners of the Ig Nobel Prizes receive a 10-trillion-dollar bill from Zimbabwe (worth about 40 US cents) and the opportunity to give a 60-second acceptance speech before an 8-year-old girl comes on stage saying “Please stop, I’m bored.” The full ceremony can be watched below.