Ig Nobel Prizes awarded for serious but silly science

Ig Nobel prize winners for silly science included archaeologists who swallowed whole shrews to see if humans could digest the bones.

A lab mouse. (CC/Rama)
A lab mouse. (CC/Rama)

This year's Ig Nobel awards ceremony, which honors scientific achievements "that first make people laugh, then make people think," was held at Harvard University Thursday.

A study that found people who think they're drunk also think they're attractive, and another that found dung beetles use the Milky Way to find their way home were among this year's winners.


Sponsored by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Nobels are in their 23rd year. Real Nobel laureates announced the winners during a wacky ceremony that included a mini-opera and a chance to win a date with a Nobel laureate.

The psychology prize went to the "beer goggles" study authors, while the dung beetle navigation experiment won the joint prize in biology and astronomy.

The archaeology prize went to a pair of U.S. researchers for swallowing parboiled shrews whole then examining their excrement to see which bones would break down in the human digestive system.

A safety engineering prize went to the late Gustano Pizzo of the U.S. for inventing an airplane hijacker trap-door system that would drop the hijacker into the plane's hold, plop him into a package and drop the package out the plane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whereupon the packaged hijacker would parachute to police waiting below.


The physics prize went to researchers who found that a person can indeed walk across water -- if the person and the pond are both on the moon. The chemistry prize went to a researcher investigating why onions make people cry.

There were two peace prizes awarded: one to Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, and another to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

For the first time, winners received cash prizes of $10 trillion -- in Zimbabwe dollars, which works out to about U.S. $4.

As the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov said, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, 'That's funny...'"

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