Once again as has been my pattern, the awarding of the Ig Nobel Prize slipped by without my acknowledging the winners contribution to the world. There are the real Nobels where recipients are honored for distinguished achievements, and then there are the Ig Nobels. We're talking here about individuals with a penchant for thinking outside the box so to speak that definitely fall into the different but undeniably interesting category.
Organized by the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine, the Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements, which make people laugh and think, are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.
Given that the winners travel to the ceremony at their own expense from around the world to receive their prize from a group of genuine Nobel Laureates, means, at least in my mind that the winners take their accolades seriously. Then again, given the nature of the awards, perhaps (just speculation) they take it with a grain of salt. In any case, judge for yourselves.
Some of the subjects of the awards struck me as requiring personal commentary. Then again, maybe not.
REPRODUCTION PRIZE (EGYPT): the late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton or wool pants on the (wait for it) sex life of rats and for conducting similar tests with human males.
Don't want to cast aspersions on rodents but why would rats wear polyester, cotton or wool pants or any pants for that matter? Would it give them prestige in the sewers? Is there a call for designer outfits for them? Given their propensity for reproduction, rats don't need pants to breed.
ECONOMICS PRIZE (NEW ZEALAND, UK): Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes and Shelagh Ferguson for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective.
Rocks have personalities? One surmises that perhaps, studying rocks from various visual points for a period of time and squinting one's eyes, a rock might or could resemble a family member or somebody famous. People have been known to see images in toast, spaghetti and other unusual places so rocks could be viewed in a similar category. Then again, why bother? A rock is a rock is...
PHYSICS PRIZE (HUNGARY, SPAIN, SWEDEN, SWITZERLAND): Gabor Horvath, Miklos Blaho, Gyorgy Kriska, Ramon Hegedus, Balazs Gerics, Robert Farkas, Susanne Akesson, Peter Malik and Hansruedi Wildermuth, for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horse-fly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are attracted to black tombstones.
Perhaps the dragonflies just like the color black being that it's night time. Who knows.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE (GERMANY): Volkswagen, for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emission whenever the cars are being tested.
And what about the times when they're not being tested, one wonders...
MEDICINE PRIZE (GERMANY): Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Munte, Silke Anders and Andreas Sprenger, for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice-versa)
Upon experiencing an itch, it would be far more simple to just relieve the itch by scratching it immediately and cutting out the necessity to gaze into a mirror. Why look in the mirror for this purpose in the first place? Then again, how would that aid scientific research?
PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE (BELGIUM, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, CANADA, USA): Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki and Bruno Verschuere, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie and for deciding whether to believe those answers.
Can or should one believe a liar who won't necessarily admit she/he's a liar. There are some means to identify liars a BBC article claims, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150906-the-best-and-worst-ways-to-spot-a-liar
PEACE PRIZE (CANADA, USA): Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathanial Barr, Derek Koehler and Jonathan Fugelsang, for their scholarly study called, "On the Reception and Detection of Pseydo-Profound Bullshit."
BIOLOGY PRIZE [UK] — Awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.
Since nobody has found a method to communicate with the animals in question, one (me) wonders how they (the animals) feel about the attempt by humans to bond with them. To diminish the chance of rejection. Thomas Thwaites created limbs that resemble goats, Check out the end result: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3612748/Why-decided-life-London-goat-Switzerland.html
LITERATURE PRIZE [SWEDEN] — Fredrik Sjöberg, for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead.
Really? Three whole volumes on fly collection? Dead AND alive?
PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.
Perhaps a case of too much time on one's hands, or legs?
And so, yet another year of - well - interesting awards in recognition of the Ig Nobels. Perhaps a special category should be created for those aspiring to enter the political realm. Couldn't hurt.