Research that makes you think and laugh
The magazine "Anals of Improbable Research" held its annual award-ceremony for the Ig-Nobel-Prize for serious research with a humorous touch. Here are some recent winners.
An ignoble prize for real research
The Ig-Nobel-Prize is a pun on the word ignoble. In the past, entries tackled questions such as: When bitten by insects - where on the human body are the bites most painful? Or: Is it really possible that Sultan Mulai Ismail fathered 888 children between 1697 and 1727? One Australian scientist was even awarded the prize for "unboiling" an egg.
21-second potty break
One essential question for humankind and our four-legged friends: How long does it take to urinate? A team led by U.S. researcher Patricia Yang found the answer: 21 seconds plus or minus 13 seconds. In previous years the prize was awarded to related research…
Earth's magnetic field shows the way
Dogs align themselves with the earth's magnetic field when doing number twos. Czech researchers observed 70 canines from 37 breeds. The answer: The preferred direction is along the north-south axis. That got them the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology in 2014.
Is yawning among red-footed tortoises contagious?
In 2011, the Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology went to researchers of cognitive biology from Vienna University. They wanted to find out if yawning is contagious among red-legged tortoises. While humans often find yawning to be contagious, the research group found that that's not the case among tortoises. The study was published in "Current Zoology."
Slipping on banana peel
The winners of the Physics award in 2014 came from the Kitasato University in Japan. They looked into the friction-coefficient of banana peel on linoleum floor. The result: polysaccharide follicular gel in the banana peel does indeed perform a lubricating function. In regular English, that banana peels are really slippery - ouch!
Depressing cat bites
In 2014, the prize in the Public Health category went to researchers looking into the correlation between cat bites and depression. The scientists had analyzed patient data and concluded that among women who had been treated for cat bites, there was a significant increase in cases of depression. The recommendation: next time your cat bites you, better see a shrink!
Solutions against hijackers
The 2013 prize for Security Engineering went to the inventor of a fully automated hijacker disposal device. The culprit falls into a trap, gets bundled up as a handy package by a wrapping machine and then dropped out of the plane on a parachute. This would save the police SWAT-team a lot of work in cases like the hijacking of the German plane "Landshut" in Mogadishu in 1977.
Seeing Jesus in toast
People who believe they've seen Jesus on a slice of bread or on a tortilla - such news hit the media time and again. Neurologists from China and Canada found out what happens inside the brain when we are recognizing faces in places where there usually are none. What they found was a whole network of brain-sections responsible for face-recognition. This got them the 2014 prize for Neurology.
Dung beetles look to the stars
In 2013 there was a joint prize for biology and astronomy: An international team found out that dung beetles looked to the shining light of the Milky Way for orientation when the moon was absent. When the sky was clear, the beetles were able to walk a straight line. As soon as the sky was overcast they lost all sense of direction.
Hunting whale-breath with drones
The 2010 Engineering award went to the American inventors of a special drone for whale-watching. But the drone that was used to fly closely over the whales' heads also had another task: whale smelling. The breath coming out of the animals' nostrils includes bacteria, the amount of which marine biologists are measuring. Beautiful pictures like this one were a by-product of the research.