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The Ig Nobel Awards Recognise Surreal, Silly Science Discoveries Like Beetles’ Longing for Bottles

Posted on the 03 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
The Ig Nobel awards recognise surreal, silly science discoveries like beetles’ longing for bottles

Women or Beer? It's a hard life for beetles. Photo credit: smccann

Beetles gettin’ jiggy with empty beer bottles, tortoises (not) yawning, and over-zealous mayors crushing cars with armoured tanks. Who needs life saving science and serious ceremonies when you have the Ig Nobel awards – the “alternative” science awards that applaud science that “first makes people laugh, and them makes them think.” Governed by the Improbable Research organisation, the twenty-first annual ceremony happened last week, showcasing the most surreal science around.

The winners. The awards go to scientists investigating the most bizarre and entertaining nuances of our world. For example, when you are in desperate need of a trip to the toilet, do you make bad decisions? Apparently so, say the winners of the Medicine prize. And have you ever wondered whether yawning is contagious for other animals, like tortoises? Turns out it’s not, and Anna Wilkinson won the Physiology prize for finding that out. Another prize was awarded to the researchers who spotted that certain beetles make the unfortunate mistake of confusing empty beer bottles and potential mates. Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz showed that male buprestid beetles prefer brown beer bottles to females of their own species.

“The goal of the awards is to nurture and increase interest in science… It is important to show that science can be fun and entertaining”, said Mirjam Tuk, winner of the Ig Nobel for medicine.

Unusual innovation. How do you let a deaf person know that there’s a fire raging in their apartment while they sleep? You shower them with wasabi scent and let their senses wake them up, of course, or so say the Japanese researchers who won the Chemistry prize. And what’s the solution to people parking illegally in your town? You acquire an armoured tank, and run over the offending vehicles, according to Mayor Zuokas of Vilnius, Lithuania.

I’m honoured, I think. Getting your hands on one of these highly prized awards is no mean feat, and most recipients feel an odd sense of pride. The Daily Mail reported that Gwynne said “I’m honoured, I think”, while Karl Tiegen, who won an award for investigating the psychology of sighing, was overcome by an odd mix of emotions: “Surprise. Embarrassment. A sneaking pride.”

Got an hour to kill and a love for the wackier side of science? You can watch the whole ceremony right here:

More science

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  • Space junk reaches tipping point
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