Roy Exum: The 2021 Ig Nobel Prizes

Monday, September 13, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I have long been a huge fan of the Ig Nobel Prizes, an annual ceremony based on scientifically grounded principles that make you laugh due to their silliness but to also think because each is proven very solidly a serious scientific research paper. The 2021 Awards, always presented at Harvard, were announced Thursday night and each recipient was awarded a cash gift for the first time – a ten-trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe.

Because of COVID, this year’s award presentation was virtual, with the winners on six continents. Because the presenter – an Ig Nobel laureate – was often in a different continent, the organizers came up with a ploy where the presenter would hand the award just out of the camera’s eye,  and then in a duped tape the winner immediately would step into the video’s scene from  the same point in the first tape.

If you think that’s clever, try this: The ceremony also featured the 24/7 LECTURES, in which several of the world's top thinkers each explained their subject twice — first in TWENTY-FOUR (24) SECONDS, and then, clearly, in SEVEN (7) WORDS.

This year's 24/7 lecturers and their topics: Gwinyai Masukume (Drinking Coffee), Françoise Brochard: (Soft Matter), Chaouki Abdallah: (Feedback Control), Patricia Yang: (Excretion Dynamics), and Iman Farahbakhsh: (Baby-Washing Technology).

The theme of this year's ceremony (though not necessarily of any of the prize-winning achievements) was ENGINEERING.

The ceremony included the premiere of "A Bridge Between People", a mini-opera performed by opera singers and scientists. (The Opera Plot: Children, seeing that many adults are angry at each other, decide to literally build bridges - little, tiny suspension bridges - between people. Each little bridge permanently joins together TWO angry adults.)  An opera with suspension bridge? You bet.

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THIS YEAR’S IG NOBEL WINNERS

* -- BIOLOGY PRIZE (SWEDEN):

Susanne Schötz for analyzing variations in purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat–human communication. CONTACT: Susanne Schötz, Associate Professor of Phonetics, Senior Lecturer, Division of Logopedics, Phoniatrics, and Audiology, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, SE-221 85 Lund, Sweden. susanne.schotz@med.lu.se> <https://person2.sol.lu.se/SusanneSchotz/>

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* -- ECOLOGY PRIZE (SPAIN & IRAN):

Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú, and Manuel Porcar, for using genetic analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in wads of discarded chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries. REFERENCE: "The Wasted Chewing Gum Bacteriome," Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú, and Manuel Porcar, Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 16846, 2020.

CONTACT: Manuel Porcar Miralles [SPAIN], I2SysBio Institute for Integrative Systems Biology C/ Catedràtic Agustín Escardino Benlloch, 46980 Paterna, València Phone (+34) 963 544 473. <manuel.porcar@uv.es> <https://www.linkedin.com/in/manuel-porcar-b7821a5> Twitter: https://twitter.com/ManuelPorcar1

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* -- CHEMISTRY PRIZE (GERMANY, UK, NEW ZEALAND, GREECE, CYPRUS, AUSTRIA):

Jörg Wicker, Nicolas Krauter, Bettina Derstroff, Christof Stönner, Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, Achim Edtbauer, Jochen Wulf, Thomas Klüpfel, Stefan Kramer, and Jonathan Williams, for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theaters, to test whether the odors produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use, and bad language in the movie the audience is watching.

CONTACT: Manuel Porcar Miralles [SPAIN], I2SysBio Institute for Integrative Systems Biology C/ Catedràtic Agustín Escardino Benlloch, 46980 Paterna, València Phone (+34) 963 544 473. <manuel.porcar@uv.es> <https://www.linkedin.com/in/manuel-porcar-b7821a5>

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* -- ECONOMICS PRIZE (FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, UK):

Pavlo Blavatskyy, for discovering that the obesity of a country's politicians may be a good indicator of that country's corruption.

REFERENCE: "Proof of Concept Study: Testing Human Volatile Organic Compounds as Tools for Age Classification of Films," Christof Stönner, Achim Edtbauer, Bettina Derstroff, Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, Thomas Klüpfel, Jörg Wicker, and Jonathan Williams, PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 10, 2008, p. e0203044

* * *

* --MEDICINE PRIZE (GERMANY, TURKEY, UK):

Olcay Cem Bulut, Dare Oladokun, Burkard Lippert, and Ralph Hohenberger, for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medicines at improving nasal breathing.

REFERENCE: "Can Sex Improve Nasal Function? — An Exploration of the Link Between Sex and Nasal Function," Olcay Cem Bulut, Dare Oladokun, Burkard M. Lippert, and Ralph Hohenberger, Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, 2021, no. 0145561320981441.

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* --PEACE PRIZE (USA):

Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway, and David Carrier, for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.

CONTACT: David R. Carrier, Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Office: (+1) 801-585-7967. <carrier@biology.utah.edu> <https://faculty.utah.edu/u0034308-DAVID_R_CARRIER/research/index.hml>

CONTACT: Steven E. Naleway, University of Utah. Office: (801) 581-6881. <steven.naleway@mech.utah.edu> http.://www.mech.utah.edu/directory/faculty/steven-naleway/

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* -- * --PHYSICS PRIZE (THE NETHERLANDS, ITALY, TAIWAN, USA):

Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi, and Federico Toschi, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.

REFERENCE: "Physics-based modeling and data representation of pairwise interactions among pedestrians," Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper A. Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi, and Federico Toschi, Physical Review E, vol. 98, no. 062310, 2018.

CONTACT: Alessandro Corbetta [THE NETHERLANDS, ITALY], Department of Applied Physics, Eindhoven University of Technology, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands. <https://corbetta.phys.tue.nl/> <a.corbetta@tue.nl> (+31) 40-247 2544.

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* -- KINETICS PRIZE (JAPAN, SWITZERLAND, ITALY):

Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama, and Katsuhiro Nishinari, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do sometimes collide with other pedestrians.

REFERENCE: "Mutual Anticipation Can Contribute to Self-Organization in Human Crowds," Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama, and Katsuhiro Nishinari, Science Advances, vol. 7, no. 12, 2021, p. eabe7758.

CONTACT: Hisashi Murakami [JAPAN], Faculty of Information and Human Science, Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kyoto, Japan. <hssh415@gmail.com> <https://sites.google.com/view/hisashimurakami/about>

* * *

* -- ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE (USA):

John Mulrennan, Jr., Roger Grothaus, Charles Hammond, and Jay Lamdin, for their research study "A New Method of Cockroach Control on Submarines".

REFERENCE: "A New Method of Cockroach Control on Submarines," John A. Mulrennan, Jr., Roger H. Grothaus, Charles L. Hammond, and Jay M. Lamdin, Journal of Economic Entomology, vol. 64, no. 5, October 1971, pp. 1196-8.

CONTACT: John A. Mulrennan, Jr., Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired), Jacksonville, Florida, USA. <clw111942@att.net> (+1) 904 737 8013. <https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-mulrennan-12294896/> <https://archive.org/details/cbarchive_103260_johnamulrennanjrpresidentofthe1993>

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* -- TRANSPORTATION PRIZE (NAMIBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, TANZANIA, ZIMBABWE, BRAZIL, UK, USA):

Robin Radcliffe, Mark Jago, Peter Morkel, Estelle Morkel, Pierre du Preez, Piet Beytell, Birgit Kotting, Bakker Manuel, Jan Hendrik du Preez, Michele Miller, Julia Felippe, Stephen Parry, and Robin Gleed, for determining by experiment whether it is safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside-down.

REFERENCE: "The Pulmonary and Metabolic Effects of Suspension by the Feet Compared with Lateral Recumbency in Immobilized Black Rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) Captured by Aerial Darting," Robin W. Radcliffe, Mark Jago, Peter vdB Morkel, Estelle Morkel, Pierre du Preez, Piet Beytell, Birgit Kotting, Bakker Manuel, Jan Hendrik du Preez, Michele A. Miller, Julia Felippe, Stephen A Parry; R.D. Gleed, Journal of Wildlife Diseases, vol. 57, no. 2, 2021, 357–367.

CONTACT: Robin W. Radcliffe [USA] Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine 930 Campus Rd., Box 34 Ithaca, NY 14853 (+1) 607.253.3778. <radclifferw@gmail.com> <https://www.vet.cornell.edu/research/faculty/robin-radcliffe-dvm>

CONTACT SOUTH AFRICA], Wildlife Veterinarian, P.O. Box 294, Karasburg, Namibia, Africa. Phone: (+264) 812968331. <petemorkel@gmail.com> <https://www.facebook.com/DrPeteMorkelBiography

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And, what?, you thought global warming was a dilemma?

royexum@aol.com


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