Banana peel study, ugly art research win Ig Nobel spoof awards

Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:40pm EDT
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By Richard Valdmanis

BOSTON (Reuters) - 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.

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. A team of Japanese scientists earned the Ig Nobel Physics Prize, for example, for detailing the hazards of stepping on a banana peel in their paper titled "Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin."

Other teams earned prizes for studying what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in their toast, how infant poop can be used in the production of fermented sausages, and how pork strips can be stuffed into peoples' nostrils to stop severe nosebleeds.

Ig Nobel prizes this year also went to researchers who measured the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, investigated whether cat ownership can be mentally hazardous, and studied how people who routinely stay up late can be more psychopathic.

Former winners of real Nobels handed out the spoof awards at a ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday. The ceremony included a three-act mini-opera about people who stop eating food and instead nourish themselves entirely with pills, inspired by the pill-heavy diet of Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil.

A personal favorite of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels, was a study by a team of Norwegian and German researchers who tested how reindeer react to seeing humans wearing polar bear costumes.

"I’ve never in my life met anyone who disguised himself as a polar bear to frighten a reindeer," Abrahams said.   Continued...

Marc Abrahams, Master of ceremonies and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, holds one of this year's prizes at the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes awards ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 18, 2014.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder