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Showing results for tags 'Ig Nobels'.
Scale-free urination and speed bump diagnostics take home Ig Nobels The weirder side of science is once again on display in the annual awards ceremony. by John Timmer - Sep 18, 2015 8:42pm EEST, arstechnica.com Every fall, the Swedish Academy of Sciences determines which researchers have produced work worthy of a Nobel Prize. Usually, my first warning that this time of the year is approaching is the announcement of the Ig Nobel Prizes, handed out in Boston "for achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think." The Nobels must be coming soon, as the Igs were handed out last night in a traditionally lavish and mildly deranged ceremony. As is typical, almost all of the winning research teams had a representative present. One of the two exceptions sent a video acceptance; the only group that did not acknowledge its win was the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Force. We'll go through the awards below, starting with the ones that are also awarded science Nobels, and then moving into some of the more flexible categories before wrapping up with Economics and Literature. Physics: The fluid mechanics of urination. The team that won this award was interested in what they call "a universal phenomenon that has received little attention"—the physics of urination. To get a sense of how urination operates on different scales, the researchers hauled a video camera to Zoo Atlanta and filmed animals relieving themselves. "Our findings reveal that the urethra is a flow-enhancing device," they concluded, "enabling the urinary system to be scaled up by a factor of 3,600 in volume without compromising its function." Chemistry: Unboiling an egg. An international team was cited here for its work on protein aggregates. These aggregates cause problems when you're making proteins in bacteria, since the desired product ends up in a tangled mess. So the authors worked out a technique to untangle it. But to test their technique, they turned to a different source of tangled proteins: boiled eggs. Medicine: A (good) allergic reaction to sex. Japan's Hajime Kimata managed to get a lot of papers out of what may have been a single experiment. He studies allergies, and he wrote two papers on how they're affected by kissing and a third on what happens when that kissing leads to sex. The news is good: all of these lead to less severe allergic reactions. This was a dual award, with a Slovakian team sharing the prize for showing that male DNA is transferred to females during intense kissing. A number of additional awards went out to life scientists, as the Ig Nobels have never been known to stick to the disciplines that the posers in Stockholm get hung up on. Diagnostic medicine: Appendicitis vs. speed bumps. The diagnostic tool is in the parking lot, but it took an Oxford University biostatistician to show it. He and several of his colleagues are getting the award for showing that you can diagnose appendicitis by driving people over speed bumps and then seeing how much it hurts. The technique is as good as several things normally used during diagnosis, and it can actually be done over the phone before someone shows up at the hospital. Physiology and Entomology: That stings! The Swedes group physiology and medicine, but here they're lumped in with insects. The category also has two recipients. One of them is a bit of a lifetime achievement award, handed out to Justin Schmidt for creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index for quantifying just how badly something is going to hurt. (He actually did this in part by quantifying just how many blood cells the venom can kill.) Michael L. Smith was also awarded for extending this work by allowing honey bees to sting him on various body parts to determine where the pain is most severe. And yes, the penis rated pretty highly. Biology: Walk like a dinosaur. Birds may have evolved from flightless dinosaurs, but their skeletons have been reworked over time in a way that leaves them quite distinct. It's hard to infer too much of dinosaur locomotion by watching a bird, so a bunch of Chilean scientists decided to do the next best thing: attach a weight to a chicken and see how it walked. The weight was meant to simulate having a large tail, and it shifted the birds' center of mass, causing them to reorient their posture into something more reminiscent of earlier dinosaurs. Mathematics: He didn't just thirst for blood. We'll get to the math in a second. An Emperor of Morocco named Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty was reported to have had 888 offspring. While many people find that number a bit ludicrous, there's actually no way of going back and figuring out whether it was realistic. So a couple of anthropologists decided to see if it was mathematically plausible. They built several models, including a random mating pool and harem-stile mating, and determined that yes, 888 is quite reasonable. In fact, "the harem size needed is far smaller than the reported numbers." Management: It's a (natural) disaster. Lots of studies suggest that high-level corporate management types have psychopathic tendencies. This award goes to an international team showing that childhood trauma also influences their management style. Among CEOs who experienced natural disasters as children, the researchers found that those who came through without serious consequences tend to run companies that are risk-friendly and aggressive. People who suffered during these disasters tended to play more conservatively. Economics: Perverse incentives. This one goes out to whoever is managing the traffic police in Thailand. They're now giving out cash bonuses to any law enforcement employees who turn down bribes. The Reuters report indicates that the value of the bonuses are roughly 100 times that of the bribe being offered, which raises questions about the sustainability of it all. Literature: Universal confusion. What is your first response when you haven't understood what someone just said? Chances are good that "huh?" is high on your list if you speak English. But some Dutch linguists have discovered that it's high on your list no matter what language you speak. This suggests that it might be a language universal. To support this contention, the authors showed that, unlike a grunt, "huh" actually has to be learned, as do the contexts in which it makes sense to use it. ΠΗΓΗ : arstechnica.com