Ig Nobel prize 2017: Cats are liquid, Didgeridoos for snoring & gender-bending insects
Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, founded the spoof prize in 1991, awarding neither the best nor worst submissions to the body of scientific research, but rather the most thought-provoking.
“We hope that this will get people back into the habits they probably had when they were kids; of paying attention to odd things and holding out for a moment and deciding whether they are good or bad only after they have a chance to think,” Abrahams told Reuters in an interview.
Paper airplanes, human spotlights and a psychology-themed opera helped liven up an already light-hearted evening as researchers accepted their parody awards from actual Nobel Prize winners.
“They are unusual approaches to things,” Abrahams added. “It would be difficult for some people to decide whether they are important or the opposite. If you had sleep apnea for a long time, the didgeridoo thing would sound quite intriguing.”
Here are just some of the highlights from this year’s Ig Nobel Awards winners:
Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?
In a paper published in 2014, Marc-Antoine Fardin used the physics of fluid dynamics to determine whether cats could be considered both liquid and solid given their ability to quickly conform to whatever vessel they decide to rest in. For this, he was awarded this year’s physics prize.
"Cats are proving to be a rich model system for rheological research (the study of the flow of matter)," Fardin said, as cited by The Smithsonian Magazine. “[It] raised some interesting questions about what it means to be a fluid."
Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginal Music Emission
Many believe that playing music to unborn babies can stimulate their minds and their development while in utero.
After studying the facial expressions of fetuses in the womb and how they reacted to speakers placed in different locations, Spanish researchers took the concept one step further and created the a "fetal acoustic stimulation device" called the 'Babypod.'
Believe it or not, this is a speaker that is inserted directly into the vagina. This improves the audio quality by reducing the amount of skin and muscle that dampens the music, according to the team’s paper published in 2015. Their work earned them the 2017 Ig Nobel Prize for obstetrics, the science of childbirth and the care of pregnant women.
Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome
In 2006, group of Swiss researchers came up with a novel treatment for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive snoring followed by pauses in breathing or extended periods of very shallow breathing.
While typical treatments include invasive airway pressure devices that pump air into a snorer's throat, the scientists studied 25 participants whom they asked to learn to play the didgeridoo.
The objective was to determine whether strengthened muscles in their airways might help the test subjects breathe better. In the study’s findings, published in 2006, the patients and their partners reported greatly improved sleep with significantly reduced snoring.
For this, the researchers were awarded the 2017 Ig Nobel Peace Prize.
Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal
Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer won the Ig Nobel prize for economics for their unique 2010 study on problem gamblers and non-problem gamblers.
The participants were asked to play a simulated slot machine game - and were then given a live 1-meter (3.3-foot) crocodile to hold just before playing.
The researchers found that the problem gamblers were more likely to place higher bets as the adrenaline rush from holding the reptiles carried over into the slot game, tricking their brains into believing they were on a winning streak.
Female penis, male vagina, and their correlated evolution in a cave insect
Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo Ferreira, Yoshitaka Kamimura, and Charles Lienhard won the prize for biology for their discovery of a gender-bending cave insect, the Neotrogla.
The insects possess the opposite body parts for their biological sex; the animal with the penis also carries the eggs, while the one who receives the penis fertilizes the eggs.
The team believes these bugs and their sex lives could improve humanity's understanding of sexual selection in evolutionary biology.
Other notable winners include: (fluid dynamics) Jiwon ‘Jesse’ Han from South Korea and his sterling work into the fluid dynamics “of liquid-sloshing" as it pertains to a "person walk[ing] backward carrying a cup of coffee”; (medicine) the international team who used advanced brain scans "to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese”; (Cognition) The Italian researcher team who tested whether identical twins could distinguish between their own face and their sibling's.