The 26th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony took place at Harvard last night, honoring the very best in silly science from around the world. Though on the face of it much of this improbable research may seem a bit pointless and downright ridiculous, most of the work selected for recognition actually has serious practical applications, proving that science really can be both fun and useful at the same time.
As usual, the awards were presented by genuine Nobel Laureates while audience members bombarded the stage with paper airplanes. Among this year’s winners were the likes of Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, who picked up the Ig Nobel Perception Prize for investigating whether things appear different if you bend over and look at them through your legs.
The Reproduction Prize was won by the late Egyptian scientist Ahmed Shafik, who put pants on rats in order to determine how different materials affected their sex drive. As it turned out, polyester trousers dampened the rodents’ libido, possibly as a result of the electrostatic charges that this type of material tends to generate.
British researchers Tom Thwaites and Charles Foster shared the Biology Prize, after both spent time living like animals. In Thwaites’s case, this involved donning a set of specially designed prosthetic hoofs and blending in with a herd of goats in the French Alps, while Foster spent several days scavenging for pizza scraps in London trash cans with local foxes, living with badgers on a Welsh hillside, and being hunted like a deer by bloodhounds in Scotland.
Other highlights include the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, which this year was awarded to Gordon Pennycook for his research into the use of “pseudo-profound bullshit” statements, while car manufacturer Volkswagen was cheekily awarded the Chemistry Prize for the way it cheated emissions tests.