The 2015 Ig Nobels: Studies That Make You Go ‘Huh?’

September 18, 2015

The data are in, the hypotheses have been tested and science has handed out prizes for finding answers to some of humanity’s least-pressing questions: Welcome to the 2015 Ig Nobel Prizes, given annually at Harvard University to “honor achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK,” according to Marc Abrahams, who founded the dubious tradition in 1991.

A few of the standouts: researchers who determined that most mammals take about 21 seconds to urinate. And, in the tradition of such greats as Jonas Salk and Albert Hoffman, Michael Smith whose rigorous self-testing (i.e., subjecting himself to some 200 bee stings) has revealed that getting stung on the penis is indeed a most painful experience.

Nature has described the annual awards as “arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar.” And, Scientific American notes: “There is actual scientific research, much of it published, behind each silly-sounding award and a method behind the madness.”

Huh? you might ask. And there’s an answer for that, too: A team of researchers discovered that the quizzical expression of befuddlement (or its equivalent) can be found in every human language.

The winners carried home their Stinkers, faux bronze versions of Rodin’s The Thinker, with the pensive cogitator toppled over backwards.

Other awards include:

Economics Prize to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay police extra cash if they refuse to take bribes.

Medicine Prize to a team of scientists from Europe and Asia who determined “or experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).”

Mathematics Prize to a pair of Austrians who used “mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.”

A full list of this year’s awards and those from past years can be found here.

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