Nothing Ignoble About Humour in Science

Published: 22nd September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st September 2014 11:03 PM   |  A+A-

Researchers who measured the slipperiness of banana peels, the ability of pork strips to stop nosebleeds and the reactions of reindeer to humans in polar bear suits were among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes for comical scientific achievements. Two Indian scientists have also won prizes at Ig Nobel awards for their offbeat research work. Dr Sonal Saraiya and her colleagues in Michigan found that packing strips of cured pork in a child’s nasal cavity could stop life-threatening nosebleeds. Naren Ramakrishnan and his colleagues investigated correlations in data on cat bites and depression. The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes which will be announced next month.

Among the 10 awards, four went to researchers that took a peculiar interest in food. The prizes this year also went to researchers who measured the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, investigated if cat ownership can be mentally hazardous and studied how people who routinely stay up late can be more psychopathic. Former “real” Nobel winners handed out the spoof awards at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

It will be unwise, however, to laugh at the idiosyncratic pursuits as something that can only be undertaken by researchers who have time on their hands, for it is possible that they can chance upon a valuable scientific discovery. While the differences between dog and cat lovers have long been studied, what hasn’t been is why some people do not like animals at all. This is a trait the animals intuitively understand as the author of Born Free noted in her pet lioness, Elsa. The lioness could even distinguish between those who loved her a great deal and those who loved moderately. Anyone who can successfully probe such secrets can graduate from Ig Nobel to Nobel.

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