Does constipation wreak havoc on the mating habits of scorpions? What is the best way to turn a doorknob? And does the world need a moose crash test dummy? If these burning questions have ever troubled you, then this year’s batch of the (in)famous satirical science awards, the Ig Nobel Prizes, has delivered on a promise to honor “the things that make people laugh, then think.”
The “32nd First Annual Ig Nobel Price Ceremony” – a parody of the prestigious Nobel Prize awards – took place remotely on Thursday to celebrate the year’s outlandish discoveries.
Among the 10 category recipients, were Solimary García-Hernández and Glauco Machado from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, who won the Biology prize for their scintillating research into whether constipation affects the mating prospects of scorpions and, if so, how.
When attacked by predators, scorpions can detach part of their tail to aid their escape, the researchers explained during the ceremony. But because the anus is on the tail segment that has been shed, the scorpion cannot “defecate for the rest of its life,” which causes constipation, Machado said. However, the researchers found, despite the scorpions losing part of their digestive tract, they are able to live on and copulate, suggesting constipation is no obstacle to a fulfilling love life.
Another experiment found that blind dates who are attracted to each other can experience synchronized heart rates, while the award for Literature went to the team who wrote seven pages in the journal Cognition on why legal documents are unnecessarily difficult to understand – it all comes down to poor writing, apparently.
The coveted Ig Nobel Peace prize was awarded to an international effort from Junhui Wu and her colleagues for their algorithm that helps gossipers decide when to tell the truth and when to lie, shining a light on the “critical role of gossip in maintaining world peace.”
The Physics prize was awarded for not one but two pieces of research “trying to understand how ducklings manage to swim in formation,” while Italy scored in Economics for using math to explain why success often goes to the luckiest people, not to the most talented.
The Ig Nobels have been around since 1991, with the ceremony usually held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it has been online for three consecutive years.
Winners accepted their prizes from “genuine and (genuinely bemused) Nobel Laureates” – this year’s ceremony saw eight past Nobel winners dishing out the awards.