Some awards are really sought after – the Nobel prize, an Oscar – and then there are those no one wants to win – such as the Golden Raspberry, the flip side of the Oscars, given to the person judged to be the worst actor of the year.
Add to that list the Ig Nobel prizes, given to some of the strangest research projects and studies of the year. And believe me, some of these are really strange, to the point where you wonder how on earth did they get funding for this and why on earth would they even think that if they did get money that the findings were worth reporting.
Anyway – here some of this year’s winners.
Physiology prize - a team of European scientists won this for their study entitled “No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise”. This ground breaking piece of scientific exploration concluded that, unlike people, red-footed tortoises don’t start yawning just because one of their chums is yawning. That’s it. Nothing else. End of story. So, next time you see a red-footed tortoise yawning it’s not because it’s copying someone else, it’s probably just bored by all the scientists who keep following it around
Chemistry prize - a team from Japan won this for their work – and in 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. You read that right. “To invent the wasabi alarm”. What’s wrong with a smoke detector or other alarm. Apparently they lack a pungent smell to alert you that something really really bad is happening.
Medicine prize – scientists in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Australia share the shame in this category for their work demonstrating that 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. No, really, that’s what they studied, how wise you are when you really need to pee. The best bit though is the title of their research: Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains
And if you thought those were crazy, check this one out.
Public Safety prize – John Senders at the University of Toronto in Canada, conducted a series of experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him. The goal was to test just how this might interfere with your ability to drive safely. I think the answer would be quite a lot, but what do I know. I’m no scientist.
But my favorite award is the
Mathematics prize -this was shared by a bunch of people who all made predictions about when the earth would come to an end. It includes Dorothy Martin who guessed we’d all be done by 1954, Pat Robertson (yes, that Pat Robertson) who guessed 1982, Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1990) and Harold Camping who thought it would all come to a nasty end on both September 6, 1994 and then again on October 21 of this year. Well done Harold for sticking to your guns. The Ig Nobel folks honored them for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.