The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize winners

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Uncooking an egg, peeing like a whale, and fathering a few hundred children

Don’t look so confused – it’s the 2015 Ig Nobel awards, the scientific equivalent of the Razzies, given out to real science projects “that make you laugh, and then make you think.” Or, in the case of several of this year’s “winners,” that make you squirm uncomfortably in your chair. Read on, if you dare.

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LITERATURE: Discovering that every language includes the word “huh?” or an equivalent

You needed a study for this? Befuddlement and indecision know no boundaries, linguistic or otherwise. When we encounter some kind of bizarre alien life that exists only as a complex crystalline structure and communicates via pulses of light, you can bet there will be some particular pattern of light that means “huh?”

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CHEMISTRY: Learning how to partially un-boil an egg

In a few decades, I’m going to be sitting on the porch of the old folks’ home saying “back in my day, we didn’t have all this un-boiling of eggs happening! If we boiled eggs, they by god stayed boiled! Now be a pal and run down to the corner store for me – I’m out of denture adhesive and weed.”

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PHYSICS: Discovering that almost all mammals empty their bladders in somewhere between 8 and 44 seconds

What a noble truth to discover about the brotherhood and sisterhood of all living things! Truly, it is an inspiration to know that I pee the same way as a blue whale, a jaguar or a white rat. Go team mammal!

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DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE: Discovering that acute appendicitis can be identified by driving a patient over speed bumps

It’s tough to imagine how anyone came up with this as a subject for inquiry. Wait, no it’s not: Ambulances. Ambulances are why this study happened. Still, it’s kind of alarming – what’s next, diagnosing broken fingers by shaking your hand?

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MATHEMATICS: Trying to figure out whether it was possible for a 17th and 18th century Moroccan emperor to father 888 children

Moulay Ismael, who was also apparently known as Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, was Emperor of Morocco from 1672 to 1727, and is reputed to have fathered almost 900 children during his reign. It’s a good thing for the Duggars he’s not around today, because that makes their reality show look quite lame.

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BIOLOGY: Noting that chickens walk like dinosaurs probably did, when you attach weighted sticks to their tails

I’m not actually sure this was a science experiment. It sounds more like something farm kids would do when they’re bored. “Check it out, Billy, it’s Cluckasaurus Rex!” “Dang it, Eddy, stop screwing around and clean out those coops!”

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MEDICINE: Discovering that kissing (and other activities) have health benefits

I mean, humans would kiss and, uh, do other stuff even if they caused cancer, but it really is good to know that physical acts of love can reduce allergic reactions and skin weals. It’s like finding out that eating ice cream is good for mental health – fantastic, but it’s not like we actually needed more reasons to eat ice cream.

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MANAGEMENT: Discovering that early experience with natural disasters can cause a lifelong fondness for risk-taking

This actually makes a lot of sense – surviving the worst nature can throw at you without serious loss must give you some deep-seated feeling of invincibility, letting you do things like buy Compaq or make New Coke with confidence.

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ECONOMICS: Paying Bangkok Metropolitan Police officers bonuses if they refuse to take bribes

The best part is, you can totally trust them when they say they haven’t taken any bribes. I mean, what possible reason would they have to lie? “If anyone’s going to bribe our officers, it’s going to be us!” the senior police must have said to themselves.

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PHYSIOLOGY AND ENTOMOLOGY: Creating the Schmidt Sting Pain index, and discovering the area of the human body where bee stings are most painful

To be very clear – this is a two-part prize. Justin Schmidt’s Sting Pain index is relatively well-known, so that’s sort of a “career achievement” award for him. The other part is for an American researcher who painstakingly arranged for honeybees to sting him on 25 different parts of his body, to learn which were least and most painful. Excuse me, I have to go hide now.

(Hungry for more? Revisit Ig Nobel winners over past 25 years here.)