01 October 2011

Woo hoo it's Ig Nobel time again!

It may not have been a bumper night for Britain at the Ig Nobels but it is great to see that one award will be coming home to Blighty!

Dr Anna Wilkinson, of the University of Lincoln flew the flag for Britain winning the 2011 Ig Nobel in physiology. She spent six months training a red-footed tortoise called Alexandra to yawn on command. She then used the trained tortoise to work out whether other tortoises would yawn whenever Alexandra did.

"With tortoises we've found evidence of social learning, fantastic spatial cognition and brilliant visual perception, so we wanted to know what else can they do," said Wilkinson. "I thought it would be really interesting to test one of these high-level hypotheses with a species which, it is very clear, do not possess empathy."

Her tortoises, however, showed no evidence of contagious yawning. The result lends weight to the idea that the behaviour is indeed controlled by higher-level cognitive mechanisms.

Anna Wilkinson, we salute you!

Interestingly the winner of this year's chemistry Ig Nobel are the inventors of a fire alarm for the deaf - one that sprays Wasabi essence rather than rings a bell that which would be as useless as a chocolate teapot.

The Japanese researchers who came up with the horseradish-based alarm system, were honoured for their lifesaving piece of work with the award of the Ig Nobel prize for chemistry.

The scientists and engineers who came up with wasabi alarm tried hundreds of odours, including rotten eggs, before settling on the Japanese condiment – a favourite of sushi lovers. Its active ingredient, allyl isothiocyanate, acts as an irritant in the nose that works even when someone is asleep. "That's why people can wake up after inhalation of air-diluted wasabi," said Makoto Imai of the department of psychiatry at Shiga University of Medical Science, one of the team that won the Ig Nobel for chemistry.

The other winners were:

Medicine Prize
: Shared by two teams whose independent research jointly established that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

Psychology Prize: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Literature Prize: John Perry of Stanford University, US, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.

Biology Prize: Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. The pair have published two papers on the topic.

Physics Prize: Philippe Perrin and colleagues for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.

Peace Prize: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank.

Public Safety Prize: John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

Mathematics Prize: Shared by a group of doom-mongers for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations -

Dorothy Martin of the US who predicted the world would end in 1954; Pat Robertson of the US who predicted the world would end in 1982; Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the US who predicted the world would end in 1990; Lee Jang Rim of Korea who predicted the world would end in 1992; Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda who predicted the world would end in 1999; Harold Camping of the US who predicted the world would end in 1994 and then later in 2011

Well there you have it. If the story makes you laugh then makes you think the purpose of the Ig Nobel Prize has been served!


susan said...

My favorite is the Lithuanian mayor with the problem parkers of luxury cars.

Knatolee said...

Goodness. Some stunners in there!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Thanks for the report, Jams, I was too lazy this time to go look for myself.

jams o donnell said...

It's good eh? I bet they didn't park so stupidly again eh?

Absolutely wonderful eh Knat!

Glad to be of service mon ami!