The winners of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize were announced last Thursday. Among them is a man who lived as a goat and another who put pants on rats to study their sexual behavior.
The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded to those that can “make people laugh, then make them think.” The ceremony was held at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrating those that can look at challenges with a funny yet scientifically accurate perspective.
Other awards went to scientists analyzing the personality of rocks from a marketing perspective and to Volkswagen for solving pollution emissions from cars by cheating on performance tests.
Charles Foster won the Biology Prize, thanks to him being able to live in wild conditions as a badger, a goat, a deer, a fox, and a bird. He used prosthetic extensions of his arms and legs to morph his body into the coherent proportions and then setting himself to live in the company of animals in the hills and prairies. Foster attended the ceremony and presented his goat suit at the exhibition.
In the case of the Reproduction Prize, Ahmed Shafik dressed lab rats in polyester pants and determined that they had less sex than rats wearing woolen or cotton trousers. He believes that polyester creates electromagnetic fields on the rats’ genitals, which could place a precedent for performing the same study on humans.
The medicine prize went to Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Münte, Silke Anders, and Andreas Sprenger, who discovered ed that if you have an itch on, for instance, your left thigh, you can relieve it by looking in the mirror and scratching your right thigh.
Bullshit as a scientific topic
Among the more unbelievable prices, there’s also the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to a study named “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.” It studied pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of “seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as genuine and meaningful but are actually vacuous.”
Researchers presented to the study participants statements made out of words randomly organized to look good, but to have no real meaning such as “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena.” Reactions were evaluated to those caused by actually profound phrases such as “a wet person does not fear the rain” and mundane phrases like “newborn babies require constant attention.” The bullshit statements were constructed to appear that they meant something, a phenomenon known as obscurantism when the speaker draws interesting words and imagery to suggest that they know or mean something.
There’s also the Perception Prize, awarded to Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi for studying whether objects look different when the person bends over and views them from between the legs.
The Ig Nobel Prize in Economics of 2015 was awarded to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay police officers extra cash if they refused to take bribes.
“I always tell them, please don’t give me bribes because I have to arrest you,” stated Sgt. Narin Fakbumrung. He was awarded 10,000 baht, equivalent to $288 as of 2016.