The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize winners

The bizarre, insane and otherwise way-out winners of science’s Razzies.

Nose pork, the Three Stooges, and art criticism WITH LASERS
Nose pork, the Three Stooges, and art criticism WITH LASERS

 Yes, it’s that time of year again – the 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes were announced Thursday night at Harvard University’s Sanders Hall, censuring 10 “honorees” as a warning to their fellow scientists. Here are this year’s cautionary tales.

NEUROSCIENCE: Trying to measure what happens in the brains of people who see Jesus Christ in a piece of toast
NEUROSCIENCE: Trying to measure what happens in the brains of people who see Jesus Christ in a piece of toast

Kang Lee’s team of Chinese scientists who took on this project, if you ask me, simply bit off more than they could chew, given that there must be a whole lot of weird stuff happening in the brains of someone seeing Jesus in a toasted slice of seedless rye.

ART: Measuring how much looking at an ugly painting hurts, compared to looking at a pretty painting, while being lightly singed by lasers

I’ve always thought that people who get all dramatic about how a painting is so bad “that it’s physically painful to look at” are just showing off, but Marina de Tommaso and her fellow researchers have showed me how wrong I was! Secret to art criticism – have a friend char you with a laser while at a gallery. Also, probably use words like “oeuvre.” 

PUBLIC HEALTH: Investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat
PUBLIC HEALTH: Investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat

This is pseudo-science of the highest order, a vile attack on one of humanity’s most beloved pet species, and insult to right-thinking cat owners everywhere. For shame, various researchers from the Czech Republic, India, Japan and the U.S.! (This message brought to you by Dinah the cat, who is definitely not bizarre or anxiety-inducing in any way.)

Measuring the amount of friction between shoes, banana peels and the floor
PHYSICS: Measuring the amount of friction between shoes, banana peels and the floor

Kiyoshi Mabuchi and his fellow researchers – none of whom, surprisingly, are named Larry, Curley or Moe – successfully sucked the fun out of this old movie trope. It’s another scientific study that’s the equivalent of some twerpy kid saying that Star Wars is unrealistic because why would those X-wings fly just like World War II fighters, anyway? THAT IS NOT THE POINT, TWERPY KID.

PSYCHOLOGY: Figuring out that people who habitually stay up late tend to be more narcissistic, manipulative and more psychopathic than early risers.
PSYCHOLOGY: Figuring out that people who habitually stay up late tend to be more narcissistic, manipulative and more psychopathic than early risers.

What’s that you say? The early bird gets the worm? I can’t believe you’d talk about worms around me. You know my cousin tried to make me eat worms at a picnic when I was seven. Clearly, you brought this up to hurt me. If you think a sandwich would help, then, please, feel free to make me one. I’ll need a moment to pull myself together.

BIOLOGY: Dogs like to poop when their bodies are aligned with the Earth’s longitudinal geomagnetic field lines
BIOLOGY: Dogs like to poop when their bodies are aligned with the Earth’s longitudinal geomagnetic field lines
ECONOMICS: The Italian government’s inclusion of revenues from illegal drug sales, prostitution and other crimes in its figures measuring the national economy.
ECONOMICS: The Italian government’s inclusion of revenues from illegal drug sales, prostitution and other crimes in its figures measuring the national economy.
Credit: ARCTIC SCIENCE: Testing how reindeer react to humans dressed like polar bears
ARCTIC SCIENCE: Testing how reindeer react to humans dressed like polar bears

OK, Norwegian scientists Eigil Reimers and Sindre Efestøl, are you sure this was actually an experiment? Are you sure it wasn’t just something that happened when somebody got drunk at the lab’s holiday party and wandered outside to pee? Because it really, really sounds more like the second thing.

MEDICINE: Curing uncontrollable nosebleeds by packing your nose full of cured pork
MEDICINE: Curing uncontrollable nosebleeds by packing your nose full of cured pork

The team of Sonal Saraiya, Ian Humphreys, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin has certainly hit upon a novel method of controlling nosebleeds, although this is another one that sounds more like some fairly extraordinary kitchen mishap than a controlled, scientific experiment. For the record, however, this is actually less gross than the baby poop and sausages people, although not by that much. Plus, it’s not very inclusive – what are strict Jews and Muslims supposed to do about their nosebleeds?

NUTRITION: Using baby poop to help make sausages
NUTRITION: Using baby poop to help make sausages