2011 Ig Nobel Prizes honor offbeat research

Winners investigated yawning turtles, procrastination and the end of the world

The Ig Nobel Prizes were given out last night at Harvard University, 10 awards in the fields of Physiology, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Peace and Public Safety. Winners researched such areas as a safety alarm that sprays wasabi and beetles that mate with beer bottles.

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Physiology: To Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl and Ludwig Huber for finding no evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise.

CHEMISTRY: To Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami for determining the density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of emergency and creating the Wasabi Alarm. It’s intended for the hard of hearing.

PSYCHOLOGY: To Karl Halvor Teigen for research into why in daily life people sigh. One experiment gave subjects puzzles they could not figure out. They gave up and sighed.

MEDICINE: To Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder, Robert Feldman, Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, Paul Maruff along with Mirjam Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop for discovering people make better decisions about some kinds of things but worse decisions about other kinds of things when they have a strong urge to urinate.

LITERATURE: To John Perry for the Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says to be a high achiever work on something important to avoid working on something that’s even more important.

BIOLOGY: To Daryll Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering a certain kind of beetle mating with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.

PHYSICS: To Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma for determining why discus throwers become dizzy and why hammer throwers don’t.

PEACE: To Arturas Zuokas for discovering that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

PUBLIC SAFETY: To John Senders for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives a car on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flops down, intermittently blinding him. This decades old research has new relevance with the advent of phoning and texting while driving.

MATHEMATICS: To several doomsday predictors for predicting the end of the world (1954, 1982, 1990, 1992, 1999 and 2011) and for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical calculations.

Ig Nobel honors world's wackiest researchers: 2010 winners

Ig Nobel prizes: laugh first, think later