It’s that time of year, when a few elite scientists are recognized for years of hard work tackling the great problems of the day. Yes, IgNobel season is upon us.
Unlike the Nobel Awards, which will be divvied out on successive days next week beginning with Medicine and Physiology on Monday, the Igs will be awarded in a single ceremony tonight at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can watch a webcast of the live ceremony here.
If you’re short on time and only looking for something to talk about at the pub or to procrastinate working on a grant application, here’s a quick rundown of this year’s winners. Highlights include an adaptive explanation for bat fellatio, rollercoaster rides that treat asthma, and the urban planning skills of slime molds.
Engineering – Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.
Medicine – Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, The Netherlands, for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.
Transportation – Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK, for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.
Physics – Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.
Peace – Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
Public Health – Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA, for determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.
Chemistry – Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix.
Management – Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.