2013 Ig Nobel Prize winners: from opera-loving mice to stargazing dung beetles

Improbable research efforts honored with Ig Nobel Prizes

2013 Ig Nobel Prizes

Congratulations, we guess

The 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes – handed out for questionable, bizarre and otherwise anomalous contributions to the march of science – were awarded Thursday night at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. Here are the winners.

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WINNERS: Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi.

FOR: Assessing the effect of listening to opera on heart transplant patients who are mice.

OUR THOUGHTS: It kind of sounds like the setting of the world's darkest Disney movie.

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WINNER: Laurent Bègue, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Mehdi Ourabah, and Brad Bushman.

FOR: Discovering that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

OUR THOUGHTS: Oh, we could've told you that based on sophomore year of college alone.

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Biology and Astronomy

WINNERS: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz and Eric Warrant

FOR: Discovering that, when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate home by looking at the Milky Way galaxy.

OUR THOUGHTS: Frankly, we're pretty impressed – we're much more advanced life-forms, but we still find we need a GPS to navigate home, particularly since we live in eastern Massachusetts.

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Safety and Engineering

WINNER: Gustano Pizzo (since deceased)

FOR: Inventing a fiendishly complicated electromechanical system that drops would-be aircraft hijackers into a sealed package that is then jettisoned via a specialized bomb bay and parachutes to Earth, alerting the police automatically via radio.

OUR THOUGHTS: It sounds more like something wealthy young Silicon Valley marketing types would pay a lot of money to try, as opposed to a deterrent to crazed hijackers.

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WINNERS: Alberto Minetti, Yuri Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, and Francesco Lacquaniti.

FOR: Discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across a pond, if that pond and those people were on the Moon.

OUR THOUGHTS: Sign us up! That's one rad step for man, one wicked leap for mankind.

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WINNERS: Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, Toshiyuki Nagata and Hidehiko Kumgai

FOR: Discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists had previously realized.

OUR THOUGHTS: Since we didn't really know why onions make you cry to begin with, we'll have to confess to being a little lost on this one.

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WINNERS: Brian Crandall and Peter Stahl

FOR: Parboiling a dead shrew, swallowing it whole (!), and then carefully examining their leavings (!!), so they could discover which bones would dissolve and which ones wouldn't.

OUR THOUGHTS: We've always suspected that scientists did some of this stuff as a dare, and this seems like near-ironclad proof.

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WINNER: Belarussian president and dictator-for-life Aleksandr Lukashenko

FOR: Making it illegal to applaud in public, and for apparently being strict enough about it that the state's security forces actually arrested a person with one arm for the crime.

OUR THOUGHTS: Well, our days of writing Lukashenko off as a loony, tinpot dictator are certainly coming to a middle.

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WINNERS: Bert Tolkamp, Marie Haskell, Fritha Langford, David Roberts and Colin Morgan

FOR: Making two related discoveries: 1.) The longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up. 2.) Once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict when that cow will lie down again.

OUR THOUGHTS: Huh? What? Sorry, we actually passed out there for a second, that was so exciting. Something about cows?

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Public Health

WINNERS: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde

FOR: A paper describing “surgical management of an epidemic of penile amputations in Siam,” which are recommended except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck.

OUR THOUGHTS: Shifting uncomfortably in seat.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.