Roy Exum: 2018 Ig Nobel Awards

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
The word ‘ignobel’ is rarely used because only a few among us know that it means "characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness." About 30 years ago, a glorious group of great scholars took a literary hatchet to form the word into ‘ig nobel’ so it could be placed in the dictionary as a term that means “a satirical social criticism that identifies absurd research.”
Think of it as the moment in our universe when science meets silly. The organizers openly admit it id a parody of the Nobel awards and, to put it more simply, the Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."
Last Thursday night before a sell-out crowd in Harvard’s Sanders Theater, the 2018 winners were proclaimed at the 28th First Annual event.
(“Yeah, it was the First Annual when we started in 1991 so ‘First’ is part of the original name.”)
You must understand: The hysterical studies are actual research – with legitimate papers and such. I have been keen on the ‘Igs’ for years and some readers still don’t believe anything so preposterous exists. That is why this year, as you laugh in disbelief and wonder, I have included the actual references so you can research for yourself how to scientifically determine the nutritional value of cannibalism, and this trick you can do with postage stamps.
A drumroll, please, as we honor the …
2018 FIRST ANNUAL IG NOBEL PRIZE AWARD WINNERS
MEDICINE PRIZE [USA] — Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.
REFERENCE: "Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster," Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vol. 116, October 2016, pp. 647-652.
* * *
ANTHROPOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, ROMANIA, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, UK, INDONESIA, ITALY] — Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.
REFERENCE: "Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors," Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Primates, vol. 59, no. 1, January 2018, pp 19–29.
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BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND] — Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.
REFERENCE: "The Scent of the Fly," Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.
* * *
CHEMISTRY PRIZE [PORTUGAL] — Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, for measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.
REFERENCE: "Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces," by Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana, Studies in Conservation, vol. 35, 1990, pp. 153-155.
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MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Akira Horiuchi, for the medical report "Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy."
REFERENCE: "Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope," Akira Horiuchi and Yoshiko Nakayama, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, vol. 63, No. 1, 2006, pp. 119-20.
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LITERATURE PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, EL SALVADOR, UK] — Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, for documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual.
REFERENCE: "Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products," Alethea L. Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, Interacting With Computers, vol. 28, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-46.
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NUTRITION PRIZE [ZIMBABWE, TANZANIA, UK] — James Cole, for calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.
REFERENCE: "Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic," James Cole, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 44707, April 7, 2017.
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PEACE PRIZE [SPAIN, COLOMBIA] — Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge, Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Jaime Sanmartín, Constanza Calatayud, and Beatriz Alamar, for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile.
REFERENCE: "Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment," Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 1, no. 12017, pp. 1-7.
* * *
REFERENCE: "La Justicia en el Tráfico: Conocimiento y Valoración de la Población Española" ["Justice in Traffic: Knowledge and Valuation of the Spanish Population")], F. Alonso, J. Sanmartín, C. Calatayud, C. Esteban, B. Alamar, and M. L. Ballestar, Cuadernos de Reflexión Attitudes, 2005.
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REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, JAPAN, SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT, INDIA, BANGLADESH] — John Barry, Bruce Blank, and Michel Boileau, for using postage stamps to test whether the male sexual organ is functioning properly—as described in their study "Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps."
REFERENCE: "Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps," John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michael Boileau, Urology, vol. 15, 1980, pp. 171-172.
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ECONOMICS PRIZE [CANADA, CHINA, SINGAPORE, USA] — Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa Keeping, for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.
REFERENCE: "Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice," Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping, The Leadership Quarterly, February 2018.
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“The sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog’ uses every letter in the alphabet.” – Unknown

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