The list of 2014 awards...
Physics: The prize went to Kiyoshi Mabuchi of Kitasato University for "measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor." Mabuchi's team also tested apple peels and orange skins—and found them to be less dangerous. Apparently, the banana peels form a sugary gel under pressure.
The researchers stressed that no humans were injured in the running of this experiment. Looking into their research introduced me to the term "tribology" (the study of friction and interacting surfaces), as the results were published in Tribology Online, the official publication of the Japanese Society of Tribologists (naturally).
Psychology: People who stay up late into the night are, on average, "more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic" than people who habitually wake up early in the morning, according to Peter Jonason of the University of Western Sydney and his colleagues. In other words, the team showed that the Dark Triad—personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism— likes it dark. The researchers hypothesized that people with these personality traits would do well after dark, where people are generally paying less attention to their manipulations. The research won them the Ig Nobel prize in psychology.
Public Health: Researchers from the US, India, Japan, and the Czech Republic shared the Ig Nobel prize in public health "for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat." Thanks to our love for them, cats rule the Internet. But research has revealed that owning a pet cat may have some effects on human personality, from lower intelligence in men to feeling less guilt in women. Two different teams won this prize. One focused on a cat-borne parasite that can infect humans and is known to manipulate the behaviors of its victims; the second looked into whether depression correlated with being bitten by cats.
Neuroscience: Kang Lee at the University of Toronto and his colleagues bagged the neuroscience prize "for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast." Their results show that this behavior is quite normal. The human brain is wired to recognize faces to such an extent that even slight suggestions of face, no matter whether they are on adog's behind or on naan bread, can result in us seeing a face. To find the regions of the brain involved in this process, the researchers created images of random noise, stuffed participants into an MRI tube, and told them that half of the images contained a face. More than one-third of the time, the subjects thought they saw a face.
Biology: After more than 5,000 observations, Vlastimil Hart of the Czech University of Life Sciences and colleagues found that dogs prefer to align themselves to the Earth's north-south magnetic field while urinating and defecating. This won them the Ig Nobel prize in biology—something that everybody probably expected as soon as the paper was published. In their study, the team concluded that the result "forces biologists and physicians to seriously reconsider effects magnetic storms might pose on organisms." And those who have to clean up after them, no doubt.
Art: The aesthetics of paintings have been a subject of interest for scholars for hundreds of years. Now Marina de Tommaso of the University of Bari and her colleagues have won the Ig Nobel prize forgetting quantitative about it. They won the art prize "for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam." The team found that the perception of pain can change based on the aesthetic content of the painting. Technically, however, they couldn't tell whether bad art increased the perception of pain from the lasering, or whether the ugliness simply adds additional pain to the sting from the laser.
Medicine: Sonal Saraiya of Michigan State University and her colleagues won the Ig Nobel prize in medicine for developing nasal tampons made from bacon. The tampons were designed specifically for Glanzmann Thrombasthenia, a blood disorder which could lead to "uncontrollable nosebleeds." Their results went down in the annals—literally, the Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology.
Arctic Science: Reindeer are no longer safe in Norway. Eigel Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl of the University of Oslo noticed that polar bears were stalking them. To find out whether the reindeer have started to respond to the threat from bears, Reimers and Eftestøl had people approach the animals to see how they responded. To make the experimental and control groups as similar as possible, the groups consisted of humans and humans dressed in polar bear costumes. The results, which won them the Ig Nobel prize in Arctic Science, showed that reindeer ran twice the distance upon seeing someone in a polar bear costume.
Nutrition: When you think of healthy eating, you probably don’t think of sausages. And when you think of sausages, you generally don't think of baby poop. But that may change, thanks to the amazing power of the bacteria in poop. With their noses held tight, a team of medical researchers obtained bacteria from the feces of infants, then tested which ones would both help ferment sausages and pass through the stomach in order to take up residence in the gut. This may ultimately lead to probiotic sausages, and it earned the team of Spanish researchers the Ig Nobel prize for nutrition.
Economics: Part of the dictates given to member states of the European Union is that they need to work to increase the size of their national economies. The Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics gets the economics prize for making Italy’s substantial illicit economy part of the national figures. Thanks to its work, the financial transactions behind prostitution, the drug trade, smuggling, and more are now all officially part of the Italian economy.
____________________________________________Meanwhile, one newsreader in India deserves the "I Know My Roman Numerals" Award...
An Appeal Court in Sweden gets my "The Law Is An Ass" Award...
And last but certainly not least, ST's own Urban supplement gets my "Autumn in 24/7 Tropical Singapore" Award...