Friday, 3 October 2008

IgNobels 2008

'For achievements that first make people LAUGH and then make them THINK'

As I seem to be spending all my holidays memorizing hard words in english (Melly will know what I mean) I actually haven't had the time to read anything 'scientific' like you guys. I had, however, time to have a look to what Nature regards as, and I agree, 'the highlight of the scientific calendar'. Yes, my friends, the Ig Nobels are out again. As you will remember, I wrote a post last year when I realized that these amazing prizes existed, and have been eagerly waiting for this year's winners. So, below, enjoy the list of the IgNobel winners 2008!


Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of OxfordUniversity,UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

ARCHEOLOGY Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.

Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert,, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.

Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. (a study on placebo effects)

Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.


Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.

Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

CHEMISTRY Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

Hehe, as usual, delicious to read... For more information on the Ig Nobels or this year's ceremony (I actually don't know yet what's this year's topic. Last year it was chicken and involved dressing proper Nobel laureates in egg outfits), see the link below

One of last year's winners, Dan Meyer demonstrates his skills, after winning the 2007 IgNobel for medicine in collaboration with Brian Witcombe, for their study on sword swallowing and its side-effects


James Lloyd said...

the usual mix of useful, funny and just stupid appear again i see! About the biology and fleas one, is it just that cats are smaller than most breeds of dog? or is this from the same starting height? and for the low vs high cost placebo, i assume the patients know the the price of each. the slime molds can solve puzzles is just strange and i would like to know what puzzles (as sudoku is beyond me most of the time and if they can get that i may as well just end it now!). what mechanism exists for them to 'think'. they dont have a nervous system that i know of. they are evol distant from us!

the lap dancing one sounds familier, as if i read it in new scientist or something. and i dont know what to think about coca-cola anymore!

thanks for the update!

Catarina Vicente said...

Lol, if you know which type of placebo you are getting, then perhaps there should be a placebo to the placebo??? I dunno, I haven't read the paper. The references are on the improbably research website.

I personally had heard about that 'plant dignity' stuff this year on Nature and Science, as it was quite a big discussion. In fact, they took things to such a limit in Switzerland that apparently proper research had to be hold on because the benefits to people at the end of the study (3 years) were not enough to overcome the stress to the animals, or so a local court decided. But then, even a fast creating drug takes what, 10 years before it gets to people?? off course there were no immediate benefits!

Btw, don't worry about the slime moulds. As far as I know, they only managed to get their way on a maze, rather than actual solve a sudoku. However, I wish they had. I would bring one with me to my exam next week!