The Ig Nobles recognise those researchers whose curiosity towards absurd yet intriguing questions of science which make you laugh and then make you think. Noble laureates gather in hallowed grounds of Harvard University every year to give out the Ig Nobles to honour dedicated research in eccentric fields of science.
The quest for the Ig Noble often leads to researchers doing things and going to places few others would dare to. One of the Ig Nobles in last year’s ceremony went to a study charting the most painful insect stings and where they hurt most. Entomologist Justin Schmidt spent 38 days pressing 83 different bees and insects on different locations on his body until they stung him, five times a day, at 25 different locations concluding that stings hurt the most on the nostril, the upper lip and not surprisingly, the penis. The pain was rated from 1-10 in the Schmidt Sting Pain Index with 10 going to the warrior wasp, whose sting was described as being chained to an active volcano. The point being that the Ig Nobles are not a mockery of science but recognise contributions towards seemingly silly questions. They make science fun and analyse everyday things which have relevant research questions few people bother to answer.
In tune with the quirkiness and satirical tone of the awards the 2016 edition featured a $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note presented to the winners. Each winner is given exactly 60 seconds for his acceptance speech, which if exceeded prompts a specially appointed, formidable eight year old to get on stage and plead,” “Please stop, I am bored”, while the audience throw paper planes on the stage.
In 25 years of their existence, the Ig Nobles have awarded strange but intriguing research like chemists who unboiled an egg, scientists who overcame gravity and floated a frog in mid-air using magnetism and the mathematics behind the disappearance rates of beer froth.
Keeping with this trend, this year’s Ig Noble in psychology went to an international coalition of researchers who studied the truthfulness of liars by asking 1000 liars to rate how often and how well they have lied throughout their lifetime, concluding that the results of the study could have been flawed as the liars might have been all along.
The peace prize went to philosophers from the United States and Canada who published a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”, written on the hypothesis that there is little question that bullshit is a real and consequential phenomenon. Their aim was to study if people are able to detect bullshit and who was most likely to fall prey to it. The results of which stated that those most receptive to bullshit were less receptive with lower cognitive abilities and a tendency to hold religious and paranormal beliefs (says a lot about the current state of our country).
A pair of German scientists won the Ig Noble for medicine when they revealed that a left sided itch on your face could be relieved by looking into the mirror and scratching the right side, a revelation which raises further questions for biologists trying to figure out the science behind itching while the award fir literature went to Swedish author Fredrik Sjoberg who wrote a trilogy on collecting flies. The award for Biology was taken by British scientist Tom Thwaites for building prosthetics which help a person live like a goat, something which Tom did in the Swiss Alps for three days, complete with bleating and eating nothing but grass and shrubbery.
In a sarcastic satirical twist, the award for chemistry was awarded to the Volkswagen Group which violated United States emission laws and falsified data about its vehicle emissions. They were presented with a 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar bill for their efforts in “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electro-mechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested”.
The Ig Nobles are more than just a satirical take on the science world. The Ig Nobles dispel the notion that science is limited to theorems and laboratories while being an inspiration to aspiring scientists to feel free to follow their crazy and absurd ideas via scientific methods to realise their ideas.
News Source- https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/22/ig-nobel-prizes-trousers-for-rats-and