A knife made with frozen faeces, entomologists who are afraid of spiders or the anguish of hearing other people’s chewing, among the most absurd investigations of the year
The Ig Nobel, awarded by the humor magazine “Improbable Research”, award each year the “pearls” of scientific research, those studies so absurd or unusual that they seem to be a joke but that they were carried out by their authors completely seriously. As expected, the awards have been marked by the pandemic. One of them has fallen to world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, who have shown humanity how they can immediately influence life and death more than doctors and scientists. Much deserved for suggestions such as injecting a disinfectant against covid-19 or qualifying the disease, which has already caused almost a million deaths worldwide, as a “Gripezinha” (little flu).
This bitter medical education award has also gone to the leaders Boris Johnson (United Kingdom), Narendra Modi (India), Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Mexico), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (Turkmenistan) and Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus). The latter has the honor of receiving his second Ig Nobel since in 2013 he won the Peace Prize for outlawing applauding in public. He shared it with the police in his country, who arrested a manic man … for clapping.
Instead of being held live at Harvard University, as usual, this Thursday the ceremony was limited to a 75-minute pre-recorded virtual event. Of course, it managed to maintain some of its traditions, such as the presence of true Nobel laureates making those selected known. The hooligan spirit was not lacking either, as the materials science award shows. It went to an international team that made a knife from frozen human faeces. Unfortunately, they showed that it does not cut well. A shame.
The roar of the alligator
The entomology award is especially absurd. It is taken away by an American study that gathers evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) fear spiders (which are not insects). “When two more legs make a big difference,” they titled it. Another much larger animal, the alligator, stars in the acoustics award. Its authors induced a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air. The anti-Nobel prize in physics was for an experiment that determined what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when it is vibrated at high frequency.
Already in the field of human behaviour, the psychology award goes to a study that recognizes the narcissism of an individual by their eyebrows. And not a few will recognize themselves in medicine. Identify a long-hidden medical condition: misophonia, the anguish of hearing other people chew.
Poverty and kisses on the mouth
The governments of India and Pakistan have won the Peace Prize for having their diplomats “surreptitiously ring each other’s bells in the middle of the night and then flee before anyone had a chance to open the door.” In economics, they highlighted research that tries to quantify the relationship between the inequality of the national income of different countries and the average number of kisses on the mouth.
And the Ig Nobel for management goes to five professional hitmen in Guangxi, China, who arranged a contract for assassination as follows: After accepting payment to carry out the assassination, Xi Guang-An outsourced the task to Mo Tian-Xiang, who then outsourced the task to Yang Kang-Sheng, who then outsourced the task to Yang Guang-Sheng, who then outsourced the task to Ling Xian-Si, with each enlisted hitman subsequently receiving a lower percentage of the fee. Nobody really committed murder.