Stupid Science: The 2012 Ig Nobel Prizes

This years Ignobel awards, the annual awards that are presented by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes. The Ignobel Prizes are handed out for whacky scientific research projects undertaken in all seriousness by serious scientists who do science scientifically and have this year produced a bumper crop of nutty and pointless projects that deserved awards. Is this increased yield due to genetically modified scientists we wonder? Anyway the awards were announced last month, apologies for not bringing them here sooner, I’ve been writing a novel.

Laugh at these by all means but as you laugh remember these are real projects funded with real money contributed involuntarily by real people like me and you.

This years top prize went to Raymond Goldstein, a physicist at the Cambridge University. Raymond was set the challenge of considering the physics of ponytails by the company Unilever.

He discovered that a bundle of hair behaved very much like a spring.

Runners up were the Dutch psychologists Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and PhD student Tulio Guadalupe were honoured for their study, “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.”

The work explored how posture influences estimations of size.

Leaning to the left correlated with lower estimates, and leaning to the right correlated with higher estimates.

The third prize went to Japanese researchers Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada created the SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person’s speech by playing it back at them with a very slight delay.

The device completely “disconcerts and discombobulates them”, it was said.

Full list Ig Nobel winners in each category; 2012.

Psychology prize: Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and Tulio Guadalupe, for their study titled Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.

Peace prize: The SKN company, for using technology to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

Acoustics prize: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada for creating the SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person’s speech by making them hear their own spoken words repeated back at them at a very slight delay.

Neuroscience prize: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using very complicated instruments and simple statistics (but mostly statistics), can see meaningful brain activity anywhere – even in a dead salmon.

Chemistry prize: Johan Pettersson for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people’s hair turned green.

Literature prize: The US government general accountability office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

Physics prize: Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren and Robin Ball, for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

Fluid dynamics prize: Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer, for studying the dynamics of liquid sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

Anatomy prize: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify specific other chimpanzees from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

Medicine prize: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimise the chance of their patients exploding

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