Researchers who studied the consequences of intense kissing, the global use of the word “huh?” and how badly bee stings hurt on different parts of the body are among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes for comical scientific achievements.
The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes, which will be announced next month.
Among the 10 awards, three went to teams of researchers that:
●Revealed that nearly all mammals, regardless of size, take about 21 seconds to pee.
●Showed it is possible to partially un-boil an egg with chemicals, and;
●Used math to determine how a North African emperor from the 17th century fathered 888 children in just 30 years.
Other teams earned prizes for attaching a weighted stick to a chicken’s rear end to demonstrate how dinosaurs might have walked and for showing that acute appendicitis can be diagnosed by how much pain a patient feels when driven over speed bumps.
Real Nobel laureates handed out the spoof awards at the ceremony at Harvard University organized by Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals. The event included a three-act mini-opera about a competition between the world’s millions of species to determine which one is the best.
Winners also receive a cash award: a Zimbabwean 10-trillion-dollar bill, which is worth only a couple of U.S. dollars
Researcher Michael L. Smith shared the physiology and entomology prize for arranging for honeybees to sting him about 200 times on 25 different spots on his body; the experiment revealed that one of the most painful locations was on his penis. His conclusion: The most painful places to get stung are the nostril, the upper lip and the male sex organ.
“A sting to the nostril is so painful it’s like a whole-body experience,” he said.
Smith shared the Ig Nobel for physiology and entomology with Justin Schmidt, an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, who devised a pain scale for insect stings.
His advice: Do not get stung by the tarantula hawk, a nasty-looking wasp with a stinger about a quarter-inch long.
“The sting is entirely nontoxic but hurts like the bejesus,” Schmidt said.
The Ig Nobel medicine prize went to two teams of researchers who conducted experiments to study the biological effects of intense kissing, which include decreasing skin allergies. The literature prize was given to researchers who showed that the word “huh?” appears to exist in every language.
Ig Nobel prizes this year also went to researchers who showed that many business leaders developed a fondness for risk-taking after surviving natural disasters in childhood and to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay police officers more money in exchange for not taking bribes.
As for the research on whether Moroccan Emperor Moulay Ismael could have really fathered 888 children during his roughly 30-year reign, which ended in 1727, Elisabeth Oberzaucher and a colleague at the University of Vienna concluded that while it may sound exhausting, the answer was yes, if he had sex daily. The study found that it could be done with as few as 65 women, not the 500 in his harem.
According to the Ig Nobel Web site, the prizes are designed to “honor achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology.” The winners also present their work, or, as the Web site says, “attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it.”
As usual, the winners were thrilled with the honor.
“Sometimes these crazy things provide a lot of insight,” said Schmidt, the bee researcher.