Marc-Antoine Fardin, left, accepts his Ig Nobel Physics Prize from Nobel laureate Eric Maskin during ceremonies at Harvard University in Cambridge. Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP
Marc-Antoine Fardin, left, accepts his Ig Nobel Physics Prize from Nobel laureate Eric Maskin during ceremonies at Harvard University in Cambridge. Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP

Ig Nobel prizes for research on liquid cats, gamblers' luck

By Scott Malone Time of article published Sep 16, 2017

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Cambridge - Scientists taking on

the deep questions of whether cats are liquid or solid, how

holding a crocodile influences gambling and whether playing the

didgeridoo can help cure snoring were honoured Thursday at the Ig

Nobel Prize spoof awards.

The prizes are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of

the Annals of Improbable Research, and are intended not to honor

the best or worst in science, but rather to highlight research

that encourages people to think in unusual ways.

"We hope that this will get people back into the habits they

probably had when they were kids of paying attention to odd

things and holding out for a moment and deciding whether they

are good or bad only after they have a chance to think,"

Abrahams said in a phone interview.

Human Spotlight Madeline Pelz illuminates the scene during Ig Nobel award ceremonies at Harvard University. Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP

Some of the honorees tend towards the spurious: French

researcher Marc-Antoine Fardin's 2014 study "Can a Cat Be Both a

Solid and a Liquid?" was inspired by internet photos of cats

tucked into glasses, buckets and sinks. The winner of the Ig

Nobel in physics used mathematical formulas to conclude that

active young cats and kittens hold their physical shape longer

than older, lazier felines.

Other work on the prize list has clearer potential for

practical applications.

Economics winners Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer conducted

an experiment in which problem gamblers and non-problem gamblers

handled 1-meter (3.3-foot) long crocodiles before playing a

simulated slot machine.

The 2010 study, conducted on 103 people in Queensland,

Australia, found that problem gamblers were likely to place

higher bets after handling the reptiles, as their brains had

misinterpreted the excitement of holding a dangerous animal as a

sign they were on a lucky streak.

Matteo Martini, left, and Ilaria Bufalari, centre, walk on stage to receive the Ig Nobel Cognition Prize at Harvard University. The pair won for research into "Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins". Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP

A multi-national team of six researchers won the Peace Prize

for the 2005 paper "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment

for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome: Randomized Controlled

Trial."

The conclusion that the Australian wind instrument might be

of some benefit was based not the didgeridoo's droning tone,

but rather that the daily practice involved a lot of blowing,

and may have strengthened the upper respiratory tract, making

breathing easier.

The awards, now in their 27th year, are to be handed out by

actual Nobel Prize winners in a ceremony at Harvard University

on Thursday.

"They are unusual approaches to things," Abrahams said. "It

would be difficult for some people to decide whether they are

important or the opposite. If you had sleep apnea for a long

time, the didgeridoo thing would sound quite intriguing." 

Reuters

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