Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ig Nobel Prizes


Byter Graham E sent me a lengthy commentary on “farting”: in popular culture, history, literature and more, in response to my post yesterday about some aspects of that topic.  Thanks Graham, you are certainly Master of the Fart.  However, to give readers a break from flatulence, I will post that next week.

My post on the study done of farting and the formula developed by the experts as to how to assess the funniest of the farts reminded me that it was time to have a look at this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes.  That post appears below.


Ig Nobel Prizes 2019

The Ig Nobel Prizes are satiric prizes awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research, its stated aim being to "honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and the word ignoble. Organised by the scientific humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the Ig Nobel Prizes are presented by Nobel laureates in a ceremony at the Sanders Theatre,  Harvard University.

The 29th Ig Nobel award ceremony was held on September 12 2019.

Marc Abrahams, far right, presides over the 29th annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Cambridge, Mass. The spoof prizes for weird and sometimes head-scratching scientific achievement are bestowed by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, and handed out by real Nobel laureates.

Following is a summary of the winners and winning studies.  Access the official site for links to the research:


Shiguru Watanabe of Japan accepts the Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the study "Estimation of the Total Saliva Produced Per Day in Five-Year-Old Children" 

This year’s Chemistry Prize went to a team of pediatric dentists at Hokkaido University for determining how much saliva a 5-year-old produces. The study of 30 kindergartners showed that each generates about 500 mL of spit each day.

Iman Farahbakhsh, a mechanical engineering professor at Islamic Azad University, won the Engineering Prize for inventing a machine that changes babies’ diapers. The combination washer and diaper-changing apparatus “includes a main chamber, a glass window, a seat, a leg holder, a safety belt, a diaper removing arm, a sprinkler, and a dryer,” according to the 2018 patent.


David Hu speaks as Patricia Yang, right, listens as they receive the Ig Nobel award in physics for studying how and why wombats make cubed poo.

The Physics Prize was awarded to a team that studied how and why wombats make cubed poo. The group reported its findings—that the irregular elasticity of wombats’ intestines leads to compact, cubed feces—at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in 2018. It is the second Physics Ig Nobel for two members of the team, Patricia Yang and David Hu of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who shared the 2015 prize for determining it takes most mammals 21 s (plus or minus 13 s) to empty their bladders.


Silvano Gallus of Italy accepts the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for the study "Does Pizza Protect Against Cancer?" 

Silvano Gallus, head of the Laboratory of Lifestyle Epidemiology at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, garnered the Medicine Prize “for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy”

Medical Education:
The Medical Education Prize went to researchers that used the animal-training technique known as clicker training to teach surgeons to perform orthopaedic surgery

An international team claimed the Biology Prize for a study that determined there is a distinct difference in the magnetic properties of live and dead cockroaches

Two human fertility researchers at the University of Toulouse earned the Anatomy Prize for “Thermal Asymmetry of the Human Scrotum,” their study of postal workers and bus drivers. One of the winners, Roger Mieusset, also invented heated underwear for men, purportedly for contraception.


Andreas Voss, left, and his son Timothy Voss, of The Netherlands, receive the Ig Nobel award in economics for testing which country's paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.

The Economics Prize went to three microbiology researchers “for testing which country’s paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.” Answer: the Romanian leu

For their study “The Pleasurability of Scratching an Itch: A Psychophysical and Topographical Assessment,” five dermatologists, a psychologist, and a biostatistician won the Peace Prize

Julius Maximilian University of W├╝rzburg psychologist Fritz Strack won the Psychology Prize “for discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier—and for then discovering that it does not”


The following article is from the website Metal Floss at:

5 Hilarious Discoveries from the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Each September, the Ig Nobel Prizes (a play on the word ignoble) are given out to scientists who have wowed the world with their eccentric, imaginative achievements. Though the experiments are usually scientifically sound and the results are sometimes truly illuminating, that doesn’t make them any less hilarious. From postal workers’ scrotal temperatures to cube-shaped poop, here are our top five takeaways from this year’s award-winning studies.

Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa were awarded the anatomy prize for testing the scrotum temperatures in clothed and naked men in various positions. They found that in some postal workers, bus drivers, and other clothed civilians, the left scrotum is warmer than the right, while in some naked civilians, the opposite is true. They suggest that this discrepancy may contribute to asymmetry in the shape and size of male external genitalia.

Shigeru Watanabe and his team nabbed the chemistry prize for tracking the eating and sleeping habits of 15 boys and 15 girls to discover that, regardless of gender, they each produce about 500 milliliters of spit per day. Children have lower salivary flow rates than adults, and they also sleep longer (we produce virtually no saliva when we sleep), so it seems like they may generate much less saliva than adults. However, since children also spend more time eating than adults (when the most saliva is produced), the average daily levels are about even—at least, according to one of Watanabe’s previous studies on adult saliva.

Ghada A. bin Saif, A.D.P. Papoiu, and their colleagues used cowhage (a plant known to make people itchy) to induce itches on the forearms, ankles, and backs of 18 participants, whom they then asked to rate both the intensity of the itch and the pleasure derived from scratching it. Subjects felt ankle and back itches more intensely than those on their forearms, and they also rated ankle and back scratches higher on the pleasure scale. While pleasure levels dropped off for back and forearm itches as they were scratched, the same wasn’t true for ankle itches—participants still rated pleasurability higher even while the itchy feeling subsided. Perhaps because there’s no peace quite like that of scratching a good itch, the scientists won the Ig Nobel peace prize for their work.

In the final 8 percent of a wombat’s intestine, feces transform from a liquid-like state into a series of small, solid cubes. Patricia Yang, David Hu, and their team inflated the intestines of two dead wombats with long balloons to discover that this formation is caused by the elastic quality of the intestinal wall, which stretches at certain angles to form cubes. For solving the mystery, Yang and Hu took home the physics award for the second time—they also won in 2015 for testing the theory that all mammals can empty their bladders in about 21 seconds.

Habip Gedik and father-and-son pair Timothy and Andreas Voss earned the economics prize by growing drug-resistant bacteria on the euro, U.S. dollar, Canadian dollar, Croatian luna, Romanian leu, Moroccan dirham, and Indian rupee. The Romanian leu was the only one to yield all three types of bacteria tested—Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci. The Croatian luna produced none, and the other banknotes each produced one. The results suggest that the Romanian leu was most susceptible to bacteria growth because it was the only banknote in the experiment made from polymers rather than textile-based fibers.


By the way:

Winners received $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, which is virtually worthless, and each was given one minute to deliver an acceptance speech enforced by an 8-year-old girl whining "Please stop. I'm bored."

Audience members toss paper airplanes at the 29th annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University.  Tossing paper planes is an established part of the ceremonies (Carol: please note).

Final thought:
Perhaps the farting study may be part of the 2020 awards.

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