It’s that time of year again! I don’t mean Thanksgiving for which I’m giving great thanks again this year. And I wish all you turkey trotters a happy and thankful celebration of thankfulness.
No, as I’m sure everyone is well aware; it’s time again for the annual “Ig Noble Prizes”! Organized by the magazine called “Annals of Improbable Research” this is the 32nd year of the awards, which happily satirizes the yearly Nobel Prizes. The Ig Nobel’s aim is stated as “honoring achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” I say ‘bravo’ to both.
The online ceremony from Harvard University, or perhaps the nearest bar to Harvard University, celebrated glorious absurdity in the world of scientific research. For example, have you ever stayed up all night wondering what is the best way to turn a doorknob? I know if have. And so did researchers at the Chiba Institute in Japan who won this year’s Engineering Prize for attempting to ascertain the most “efficient way for people to use their fingers when turning a knob.” No word on the results, as all the scientists were stuck in an unlocked room, trying to figure out how doorknobs work. (Kidding.)
The Safety Engineering Prize went to a Swedish dude for his Master’s Thesis called “Moose Crash Test Dummy”. Yes, his extensive and exhaustive research project is exactly what it sounds like. He built a crash test dummy moose and crashed cars into it many times. The fake moose was huge. And red. And looked like a metal barrel on four stilts. (The real moose watching from the forest thought it was hilarious.)
And while we are on the subject of animals, did you know some types of scorpions “jettison” their tails. This is bad enough, I suppose, but sans tail means that they are subsequently completely constipated. The University of San Paulo won this year’s Biology Prize by researching how the scorpion’s unfortunate tail-less constipation affects mating. I think we all know the answer to that one.
A team from an Italian university was lucky enough to snag the Economics Prize with a study that explained why “success most often goes not to the most talented people, but instead to the luckiest.” Ok, sure, big deal, you may say, tell me something I don’t know. But, thing is, they explained it mathematically. To which I can hear you say: “Ah, now I see why they spent all that time and money!”
The Literature Prize went to researchers from M.I.T. and U. of Edinburgh for trying to figure out why legal documents are so unnecessarily hard to understand. Well, anyone who’s had to pay (and pay and pay) a lawyer knows that the researchers only needed a trip to the nearest attorney-at-law where they’ll find a very familiar legal term known as “billable hours”.
But I bet you’re just dying to know what the Applied Cardiology Prize was this year. I know I am. Scientists at Leiden University in the Netherlands did heartfelt research to “find evidence that when romantic partners meet the first time and feel attracted to each other, they have a heart attack.” Just kidding about that last part, what they actually said was “their heartbeats synchronize”. The judges no doubt found that ‘adorable’ and all said, in adorable unison: “Awwww….”
And here’s one that a great one to “end” with, so to speak. A couple of dudes called Peter de Smet and Nicholas Hellmuth were honored with the Art History Prize. The title of their study says it all: “A Multidisciplinary Approach to Ritual Enema Scenes on Ancient Maya Pottery”.
Proof positive that the 2022 Ig Nobel scientists have all gone potty again this year.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.