The sex lives of stuffy scorpions, cute ducklings with an innate sense of physics, and a life-size rubber moose may not seem like they have much in common, but they all inspired the winners of this year’s Ig Nobels, the prize for comic science achievement.
Less than a month before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced, the 32nd annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony on Thursday, for the third year in a row, was a pre-recorded affair webcast on the Annals of Improbable Research magazine website.
The winners, honored in 10 categories, included scientists who found that when people on a blind date are attracted to each other, their heartbeats are in sync, and researchers who looked at why legal documents can be so baffling, even to lawyers themselves.
Although the ceremony was pre-recorded, it retained much of the fun of the live event usually held at Harvard University.
As is an Ig Nobel tradition, real Nobel laureates handed out the prizes, using a bit of video tricks: the Nobel laureates handed the prize off screen, while the winners reached out and brought in a prize they had sent and put in themselves. put together vision.
The winners also received a virtually worthless $10 trillion Zimbabwean bill.
VIEW | The 32nd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony
Curiosity ignited? Learn more about some of the winners:
Line up your ducks
“Science is fun. My kind of slogan is you’re not doing science if you’re not having fun,” said Frank Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
Fish shared the physics with Ig Nobel for studying why ducklings follow their mothers in single-file formation.
It’s about saving energy: drawing the ducks, just like stock cars, cyclists and runners do in a race, he said.
“It all has to do with the flow that takes place behind that leading organism and the way moving in formation can be an energetic advantage,” said aptly named Fish, whose specialty is studying how animals swim.
He shared the prize with researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, who found that the ducks actually surfed in their mother’s wake.
That synchronizing feeling
Eliska Prochazkova’s personal experiences inspired her research on dating that led her and her colleagues to cardiology Ig Nobel.
She had no trouble finding her seemingly perfect match on dating apps, but she often found that there was no spark when they met in person. So she put people on blind dates in real-life social settings, measured their physiological responses, and found that the heartbeats of people who were attracted to each other were synchronized.
So is her work proof of “love at first sight”?
“It really depends on how you define love,” Prochazkova, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in an email. “What we found in our study was that people were able to decide very quickly whether they wanted to date their partner. Within the first two seconds of the date, the participants had a very complex idea about the person sitting in front of them.”
A cruel sting
Solimary Garcia-Hernandez and Glauco Machado of the University of São Paulo in Brazil won the Ig Nobel in biology for their research on whether constipation is ruining a scorpion’s sex life.
Scorpions can detach a body part to escape a predator – a process called autotomy. But when they lose their tail, they also lose the last part of the digestive tract, leading to constipation — and ultimately death, they wrote in the journal Integrated Zoology.
“The long-term decline in locomotor performance in automated males may hinder mate-searching,” they wrote.
Crash test moose
Magnus Gers won Ig Nobel safety engineering for creating a moose “crash test dummy” for his master’s thesis at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, which was published by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute.
Frequent collisions between moose and vehicles on Sweden’s highways often result in injuries and death to both humans and animals, Gers said in an email. Yet car manufacturers rarely include animal accidents in their safety tests.
“I believe this is a fascinating and still very unexplored area that deserves all the attention it can get,” he said. “This topic is mystical, life-threatening and more relevant than ever.”
Do you speak legally?
Anyone who has ever read a service agreement knows that legal documents can be downright incomprehensible.
That frustrated Eric Martinez, a graduate student in the brain and cognitive science division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who also holds a law degree from Harvard.
Martinez, Francis Mollica and Edward Gibson shared Ig Nobel’s literature on analyzing what makes legal documents unnecessarily difficult to understand, research that appeared in the journal Cognition.
“Ultimately, there’s a kind of hope that lawyers will think a little bit more with the reader in mind,” he said. “Clarity is not only good for the layman, but also for lawyers.”