The Annals of Improbable Research held its annual award-giving ceremony – the Ig Nobel Prize – on Thursday night at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, and the entries were as worthy as ever.
Host for the event, top-hatted Annals editor Mark Abrams, introduced the 10 winners during a glittering evening peppered with science opera, blessedly brief keynotes and a silver-painted man holding a flashlight. Also featured were several academics who were invited in turn to give the audience a technical description of a complex concept in fewer than 24 seconds.
Star of the show, however, was the little girl who was tasked with stomping on stage to shout "Please stop, I'm bored!" whenever a prize winner's acceptance speech went on for more than a minute.
Winners were handed a unique Ig Nobel trophy, a certificate and 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars. The winning research teams received their prizes from genuine Nobel laureates, including flag-hatted Brit Rich Roberts, who won his Nobel for "Physiology or Medicine" back in 1993.
The 2019 Ig Nobel winners were:
- Medicine (Italy, in main photo): For collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy.
- Medical education (USA): For using a single animal-training technique called "clicker training" to train surgeons to perform orthopaedic surgery.
- Biology (Singapore, China, Australia, Poland, USA, Bulgaria): For discovering that dead magnetised cockroaches behave differently than living magnetised cockroaches.
- Anatomy (France): For measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France.
- Chemistry (Japan): For estimating the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child.
- Engineering (Iran): For inventing a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.
- Economics (Turkey, Netherlands, Germany): For testing which country's paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria. (Note: the Euro is the cleanest, while the US dollar and Romanian Leu are dirtiest.)
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- Peace (UK, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, USA): For trying to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.
- Psychology (Germany): For discovering that holding a pen in one's mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier, and for then discovering that it does not.
- Physics (USA, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, UK): For studying how and why wombats make cube-shaped poo.
Most of the winners were due to give free public talks on the afternoon of Saturday 14 September at MIT. You can watch a full recording of the event above. ®