Most reporting I do for Network World does not involve any of the following: 1.) Watching a guy stick bacon up his nose. 2.) People dressing up in polar bear costumes to scare reindeer. 3.) Dogs orienting themselves according to the Earth’s magnetic field before pooping.
The Thursday night I spent at the 24th Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard, then, was atypical in at least three different ways.
The Ig Nobels are the bizzaro counterpart to the prestigious Nobel prizes, rewarding the most offbeat, weird, gross or otherwise strange contributions to science and human culture every year, with a ceremony that contains light opera, paper airplanes and plenty of other schtick spread in between the actual presentation of the awards. An addition wrinkle is that many of the actual award presenters are genuine Nobel laureates themselves.
Order is kept by an eight-year old girl, Miss Sweetie-Poo, who marches over to speakers who exceed their 60-second time limits and says “please stop, I’m bored” until they wrap up.
The bacon thing was part of an experiment in curing serious nosebleeds with salted pork, while the polar bear costumes were meant to help researchers determine whether reindeer behaved differently around humans in said costumes. I’m still not entirely certain how the discovery about dogs arranging their hindquarters based on the Earth’s magnetic fields was made, but made it was.
Other winners included:
- A team that studied whether living with a cat was bad for your mental health
- A team that used bacteria from infant feces in a probiotic starter culture to make certain kinds of sausages
- A study that suggested that people who stay up late are more likely to display “dark triad” personality traits – narcissistic, manipulative and psychopathic.
- An attempt to understand what’s going on in the brains of people who see Jesus Christ in slices of toast
- An analysis of the friction between a banana peel, the floor and a human foot, when the foot steps on the banana peel
- A test to determine whether people feel more pain, while being shot in the hand by a laser, depending on whether they’re looking at a pretty picture or an ugly one
- The government of Italy, for expanding the nominal size of its economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling and other types of criminal activity.
This year’s operetta, based on the theme “food,” was an ably performed pastiche about a couple who decided to live only on nutritional supplements, and were eventually devoured by their own resident microbes.
If you missed the festivities, you can watch the replay here. Admit it, you kind of want to.