Ig Nobel prizes for research on liquid cats, gamblers' luck
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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
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
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
The awards, now in their 27th year, are to be handed out by
actual Nobel Prize winners in a ceremony at Harvard University
"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."