2012 Ig Nobel Prizes honour offbeat research

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This year’s Ig Nobel Prize, handed out last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offered up the usual cavalcade of faffing around, silliness and genuinely puzzling scientific advancement. Here are the 10 winners.

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The Ig Nobel Prize – science’s Razzy

This year’s Ig Nobel Prize, handed out last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offered up the usual cavalcade of faffing around, silliness and genuinely puzzling scientific advancement. Here are the 10 winners.

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Psychology

Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan, Tulia Guadeloupe discovered that leaning to the left, while looking at the Eiffel Tower, made the famous structure appear smaller. No, they don’t actually appear to know why.

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Peace

SKN Company of Russia took home this prize for a system that can turn old firearms ammunition into diamond. Admittedly, very small amounts of diamond, but hey, it’s still better than having a load of old bullets hanging around.

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Neuroscience

Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller and George Wolford demonstrated that even scientists sometimes find only what they’re looking for by showing apparent fMRI activity in the brain of a dead salmon. Insert your favourite joke about “interestingly, they still got no results from [insert politician]”.

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Chemistry

Johan Pettersson figured out why blonde-haired people were seeing their hair turn green – copper pipes in showers in newer buildings. What’s funny is that this would’ve been my scientifically illiterate guess, had I even known this phenomenon existed.

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Literature

The US Government Accountability Office (which didn’t attend) won this for preparing a report about reports about reports – and recommending a further report. Can’t argue with that.

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Fluid Dynamics

Ruslan Krechetnikov discovered that average-sized coffee mugs are exactly the right size to create a lot of sloshing when being carried by someone walking at an average rate of speed. I knew it.

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Acoustics

Kazutaka Kurihara and Koki Tsukada of Japan developed a speech jammer that repeats your own words back to you after a slight delay, making it much more difficult to speak. I’d like to combine this with some kind of neural interface when I ride the MBTA.

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Physics

Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren and Robin Ball calculated the balance of forces that move the hair in a ponytail. Much of the US gymnastics team was interested, but some members were still unimpressed.

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Anatomy

Franz de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny figured out that chimpanzees can match pictures of familiar individuals’ faces (other chimpanzees, I hasten to add) to their posteriors.

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Medicine

Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti discovered ways to prevent patients from exploding during colonoscopy. I have no idea why this wasn’t an actual Nobel Prize, and am coincidentally really scared now.

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