Unique questions answered at the Ig Nobel Prize awards
By Samantha Siomko, Contributing Writer
There are some questions that only science can answer. These questions include things such as, “Would this bee sting hurt more on my arm or on my face?” or “How can I get this chicken to walk like a dinosaur?” In a world of fast-paced and ever evolving science, sometimes the most simple and strange questions yield rather interesting results. That is exactly the premise behind the Ig Nobel Prize awards.
Orchestrated by Improbably Research, a website dedicated to procuring unique research, the Ig Nobel Prizes are meant to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology”. The awards are given out every September with much fanfare and a ceremony at Harvard. Actual Nobel Laureates present the awards to those who were chosen in each category: Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Management, Economics, Medicine, Mathematics, Biology, and Physiology/Entomology.
Some of this year’s more memorable recipients include Justin Schmidt, who endured bee stings all over his body to rate the relative pain caused by insect venom. With this data, he created the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which lists the most and least painful areas of the body on which to receive stings. Bruno Grossi (et al.), in the Biology category, discovered that if you attach a weighted stick to the back of a chicken, simulating a counterbalance tail, it would walk similarly to how we believe dinosaurs would have walked. Other recipients include a group of researchers who discovered that the word “huh?” is used in practically every language, researchers who found that it takes an average of 21 seconds for a mammal to empty its bladder, and others who discovered a chemical recipe to partially unboil an egg.
Though the recipients of the Ig Nobel Prizes this year may not have discovered a cure for cancer, the awards do bring to light some more obscure ideas and lesser-known areas of study. Science is not always about discovering the next best thing; sometimes you need to study things for reasons that are not quite clear yet. Who knows? A cure for cancer may just be hiding somewhere in that unboiled egg, and without the Ig awards we would be in the dark. It is part of the human condition to consistently discover, even if those discoveries make us say, “huh?”