Though I reported on last year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, I missed the 2013 edition of this annual Harvard laugh fest, which was held in September. I only heard the details yesterday, on NPR’s “Science Friday.” Much better late than never for this look at the work of international scientists whose “research makes people laugh and then think,” according to Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of “The Annals of Improbable Research.”
The ten 2013 winners Ig Nobel winners, who received their prizes from (real) Nobel Laureates, include:
The Prize in Psychology, which went to a multinational team that confirmed empirically that “people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.” Their article, “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beer Holder,” was published in the May 15, 2012 issue of The British Journal of Psychology.
A Joint Prize in Astronomy and Biology, awarded to Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Eric Warrant, and Clarke Scholtz, proves that dung beetles use the Milky Way for navigation; they can push their balls in a straight line when the night sky is clear, but not when it is overcast.
A Probability Prize was given for two related findings: “First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.” Bert Tolkamp of the Netherlands accepted the award and expressed his team’s gratitude for the honor, noting that they need the laughs, since researching cows can be “really boring.”
The Prize in Medicine went to a joint team from China and Japan for proving that post-heart transplant mice survive longer when listening to the Verdi opera, La Traviata, than to the music of Enya. (1) These findings were chronicled in The Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
The Operatic Heart Transplant team
This year’s prize ceremony, like those in the past, sold out early. As South African entomologist, Marcus Byrne, who took part in the dung beetle study, said, “It shows how much people appreciate good science. It doesn’t have to make money. It doesn’t have to save lives. It’s just part of the human condition to be curious.”
And, I would add, to enjoy a good laugh!