Monday, October 17, 2011

The 2011 Ig Nobel Awards


"The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

Since 1991, the annual awards event is held at Harvard University and the winners travel to the ceremony, at their own expense, from several continents, to receive a prize from "group of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates, assisted by a large number of assorted Ig personnel, all before a perpetually standing-room only audience." It is a highlight of the scientific community. I know that I always get a big kick out of them. In fact, back in May, I reviewed the paper that won the physiology prize (see Catching the Yawn).

The 21st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, held on September 29, 2011, introduced ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners.

PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE
Wilkinson, Anna, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mand, and Ludwig Huber (2011) No evidence of contagious yawning in the red footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria. Current Zoology: 57(4), 477-484. (LINK)

CHEMISTRY PRIZE
Imai, Makoto, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm. US patent application 2010/0308995 A1. Filing date: Feb 5, 2009.

MEDICINE PRIZE
Presented jointly to:
Tuk, Mirjam, Debra Trampe, and Luk Warlop (2011) Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains. Psychological Science: 22(5), 627-633. (DOI: 10.1177/0956797611404901)
(and)
Lewis, Matthew, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman, Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (2011) The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults. Neurology and Urodynamics: 30(1), 183-187. (DOI: 10.1002/nau.20963)

Translation: "People make better decisions about some kinds of things — but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate."

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE
Teigen, Karl Halvor (2008) Is a Sigh 'Just a Sigh'? Sighs as Emotional Signals and Responses to a Difficult Task. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology: 49 (1), 49–57. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2007.00599.x)

Translation: "Trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh."

LITERATURE PRIZE
Perry, John (1996) How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done. Chronicle of Higher Education. (LINK)
Later republished elsewhere under the title "Structured Procrastination."

Translation: "To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important."

BIOLOGY PRIZE
Gwynne, Darryl T. and David C.F. Rentz (1983) Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society: 22(1), 79-80. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-6055.1983.tb01846.x)
(and, by the same authors, because two papers on this topic is way better than just one)
Gwynne, Darryl T. and David C.F. Rentz (1984) Beetles on the Bottle. Antenna: Proceedings (A) of the Royal Entomological Society London: 8(3), 116-117.

Translation: "A certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle."

PHYSICS PRIZE
Perrin, Philippe, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma (2000) Dizziness in Discus Throwers is Related to Motion Sickness Generated While Spinning. Acta Oto-laryngologica: 120(3), 390–5. (DOI: 10.1080/000164800750000621)

Translation: "Why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't."

MATHEMATICS PRIZE
This one is held jointly by...
Dorothy Martin (U.S.) who predicted the world would end in 1954
Pat Robertson (U.S.) who predicted the world would end in 1982
Elizabeth Clare Prophet (U.S.) who predicted the world would end in 1990
Lee Jang Rim (Korea) who predicted the world would end in 1992
Credonia Mwerinde (Uganda) who predicted the world would end in 1999
Harold Camping of the (U.S.) who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011

Translation: "The world [should] be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations." Apparently the U.S. in particular.

PEACE PRIZE
Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

Translation: I think the VIDEO really speaks for itself.

PUBLIC SAFETY PRIZE
Senders, John W., et al., (1967) The Attentional Demand of Automobile Driving. Highway Research Record: 195, 15-33. (LINK)

Translation: "A series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him." Oh yeah and there's a great VIDEO for this one too!

If you have an hour and 45 minutes free and want to watch or listen to the ceremony...

I also highly recommend the Improbable Research Organization's website. They publish the Annals of Improbable Research magazine and are the administers of the Ig Nobel Prizes. All the info and links that you've read today have come from there and you can see the winners from past years.
http://www.improbable.com/

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