Ever wondered what the sexual life of rats would be like if they wore pants or what sort of personalities do rocks possess? If these sorts of questions interest you, look no further than the 26th annual Ig Nobel Prizes ceremony held on Thursday, September 22, at Harvard University.
Touted as an award ceremony to honour achievements that make people laugh and then think, the Ig Nobel Prizes ceremony truly celebrates the most unusual and imaginative studies that spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.
Winners received a $10 trillion Zimbabwean bill (about 40 cents in US money) from actual Nobel laureates: chemist Dudley Herschbach, economist Eric Maskin, Dr Rich Roberts and physicist Roy Glauber.
The handsome sum is awarded to encourage absurdist research and celebrate their satirical findings. For instance, late urologist Ahmed Shafik found that rats that wore polyester showed "significantly lower" rates of sexual activity as compared to cotton and wool-wearing rats who were relatively normal.
Shafik made murine trousers in various cloth materials to cover the animals' hind legs with a hole for the tail. Ultimately, his findings were chalked to the possibility of electrostatic charges created due to the polyester material.
The winner of the economics prize was a team from New Zealand and the UK, comprising of Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes and Shelagh Ferguson who studied the personality of rocks.
Researchers studied concepts such as "brand personality", or the "set of human characteristics associated with the brand" by putting pictures of rocks in front of 225 Kiwi students. The students then decided which of 42 traits, 15 facets and five factors to apply to the rocks in question.
Rock H, was called "modest", "farm mechanic" and "down-to-earth", while rock I was described by one student as "a gypsy or a traveller, a hippie" and by another as "liberal, attractive and female, I saw a young person, maybe mid-30s, who was very attractive when she was younger/possibly a model. Has her own way of thinking, with a somewhat grounded confidence, enjoys organic food."
Rock G, was variously described as "a big New York type businessman, rich, smooth, maybe a little shady" and "carries a black brief case, slick hair, quick thinker and quicker talker. Not a good dude though."
However, the most ludicrous award was won by Volkswagen that was recently caught for violating US emissions law. The Ig Nobel committee granted it an award in the field of chemistry saying it was awarded "for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electro-mechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested".
The grant of a nearly worthless Zimbabwean bill will surely go a long way to help the automaker pay for its massive legal costs.
The list of the other award winners:
PHYSICS PRIZE [HUNGARY, SPAIN, SWEDEN, SWITZERLAND] — Gábor Horváth, Miklós Blahó, György Kriska, Ramón Hegedüs, Balázs Gerics, Róbert Farkas, Susanne Åkesson, Péter Malik, and Hansruedi Wildermuth, for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones.
MEDICINE PRIZE [GERMANY] — Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Münte, Silke Anders, and Andreas Sprenger, for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa).
PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [BELGIUM, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, CANADA, USA] — Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki, and Bruno Verschuere, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.
PEACE PRIZE [CANADA, USA] — Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit".
BIOLOGY PRIZE [UK] — Awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.
LITERATURE PRIZE [SWEDEN] — Fredrik Sjöberg, for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead.
PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE [GERMANY] — Volkswagen, for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.