TUESDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2015On the 17th of September, the winners of the 2015 IgNobel prizes were announced in a ceremony involving a flurry of paper planes, a terrifyingly cute nine-year-old called ‘Miss Sweetie Poo’, and several genuine Nobel Laureates. This week, we interrupt our regular neuroscience commentary to bring you our pick of the Igs!
An IgNobel is a Nobel Prize reflected in a fairground mirror and doused with a bucketful of irreverence. They’ve been awarded since 1991 under the auspices of the Annals of Improbable Research and honour ‘achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think'. (Or occasionally, roll their eyes in exasperation – as for the 2015 Economics Prize, awarded to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering police officers extra money if they refused bribes.) The awards ceremony is a highlight of the international academic calendar: the genuine Nobel Laureates hand out the prizes, and Miss Sweetie Poo ensures that recipients’ acceptance speeches keep to time.
The Medicine Prize was one of the most endearing IgNobels this year. It was awarded to two research groups for work on the ‘biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing'. The Methods sections of their papers are fascinating: in one study, patients with eczema or allergic rhinitis were allowed to ‘kiss with lovers or spouses freely for 30 min while listening to soft music’. The study found that kissing could alleviate allergic symptoms. Awww... though one can’t help wondering what would happen in a clinical trial of this particular therapy. How on earth would a double-blind study work?
The other 2015 IgNobels are just as wacky. There’s the Chemistry prize, a masterful study of re-folding damaged proteins that could teach us how to un-boil an egg. Or the Physiology/Entomology Prize, for ’painstakingly’ in-depth studies of how much insect stings hurt. Or the Physics prize, for experimentally verifying a ‘universal urination duration’. (For those wanting the usual neuroscience fix, fear not. 2014 IgNobels were awarded for both Neuroscience and Psychology.) Head over to the Annals of Improbable Research for the rest of the Igs, and an evening of baffled laughter – which, like kissing, also seems to be good for your health.