The 26th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony took place on Thursday night, and as always, the goofy award show recognized some of the silliest science around — or as they put it, research that makes “people LAUGH, and then THINK.
The theme of 2016’s ceremony, which featured a bunch of scientists having an infectiously nerdy good time, was time. There were demonstrations, and a three-part opera about what, exactly, a “leap second.” (Short answer: It’s a second that’s occasionally added on to the super-precise atomic time that the world runs on to make sure it doesn’t drift too far away from the time of day based on Earth’s rotation around the sun. It’s complicated.)
But the big draw of the show, which was held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, were the awards. Here, then, are your 2016 Ig Nobel prize winners. I draw all my psychologist friends attention to number six, which is my own personal favourite out of the whole bunch.
Rats Who Wear Polyester Pants Don’t Get Laid as Much
The late Ahmed Shafik of Egypt won the Reproduction Prize for his study that measured the effects of wearing polyester versus cotton or wool trousers on the sex life of rats. He dressed 75 rats in polyester pantsuits, and, honestly, this study raises far more questions than it answers.
We Think Rocks Have Different Personalities and Personal #Brands
The Ig Nobel prize for Economics went to Mark Avis, Sarah Gorbes, and Shelagh Ferguson for finding that people project different personality traits onto different types of rocks, and this can be useful from a sales and marketing perspective. A hunk of obsidian is glamorous and contemporary, while pumice projects independence, for instance.
White Horses Are the Most Horsefly-Proof Horses
The Ig Nobel prize for Physics went to a Gábor Horváth, Miklós Blahó, György Kriska, Ramón Hegedüs, Balázs Gerics, Róbert Farkas, Susanne Åkesson, Péter Malik, and Hansruedi Wildermuth, for finding that horseflies weren’t as attracted to white horses as they were to black beauties. The stronger the light reflected from their coats, the less attracted flies were to the equines.
Åkesson, who accepted the award, added that there were other patterns that were less appealing to flies that could help you avoid being bitten. “You can also either have stripes like a zebra or you can dress like myself in a dotted coat,” she said.
Volkswagen Sucks (lol)
The Ig Nobel prize for Chemistry wasn’t so much an actual award as it was a sick burn directed at the German car company for its infamous emissions scandal. The host sarcastically said Volkswagen won the prize for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.”
The Ig Nobel prize for Medicine
Was awarded to Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Mnte, Silke Anders, and Andreas Sprenger. Together, these researchers injected 26 volunteers in the arm with itch-inducing chemical histamine. When they itched the opposite arm while looking in a mirror, they felt some relief.
Young Adults Are the Best Liars
The Ig Nobel prize for Psychology went to Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki, and Bruno Verschuere for, as the Ig Nobels put it “asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.” More specifically, they asked 1,005 people, ranging from 6 to 77 years old, to lie to them in an attempt to see what age group was the best at it. The conclusion? Don’t trust a damned thing anyone between the ages of 18 and 29 says. (I believe a similar study was undertaken by Professor Ivan Wackadoodle at the University of Kamchatka whose study group consisted of 1000 Yaks).
Some People Are More Susceptible to “Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”
The Ig Nobel prize for Peace was given to Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang, true heroes, all of them. Their study, On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit, examined how people perceive “seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.” Some people, they found, are just more susceptible to this type of bullshit.
Pretending You’re an Animal
The Ig Nobel prize for biology was jointly awarded to Charles Foster and Thomas Thwaites. Both men pretended they were animals… for science. Foster, who was recently featured in an episode of This American Life pretended he was a badger, a deer, an otter, a fox, and a bird for his book Being a Beast.
Thwaites, meanwhile, made custom prosthetics so he could live life like a goat. Inverse interviewed Thwaites about his work over the summer.
Collecting Dead Flies Is a Pleasurable Experience
The Ig Nobel prize for Literature went to Fredrik Sjöberg for his three-volume autobiography, The Fly Trap, which was centered largely around how much pleasure he got out of collecting dead and/or dying flies. Kay.
Things Look Different When You Bend Over and Look Through Your Legs
The Ig Nobel prize for Perception was given to Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for their study Perceived size and perceived distance of targets viewed from between the legs: Evidence for proprioceptive theory. They found that when you look between your legs like you’re about to hike a football, you’re not as consistent while estimating size and tend to compress the scale for distance.
Inverse attempted to predict some of the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes, and while “You Probably Think Legos Are Real” or any of our other guesses ended up getting a nod, it just goes to show that there’s a lot of fun science out there.