Since 1991, the Ig Nobel Awards have been celebrated to award ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." The award is a parody of the Nobel Prize and the word ignoble.
This year is the 30th year that showcases the lighter side of science but in quarantine style due to the restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the global crisis, it seems there is no shortage of amusing people, from the alligators made to bellow in helium chambers to drunken earthworms that vibrate on speakers. These all seemingly odd experients have caught the eye of the judges.
30th Ig Nobel Awards
2020 marks the 30th year of the Ig Nobel Awards, which followed the 2019 event that featured several comical but useful scientific revelations. Some of these are the amount of saliva a five-year-old can produce, how dirty polymer banknotes can be, and how wombats have a cube-shaped poo. This year, it is expected that several more weird science is coming.
An international team of scientists takes home the Acoustics Prize thanks to their study on the bellows of crocodilians. The researchers induced and recorded female Chinese alligators bellowing in an airtight chamber and made them inhale a mix of helium and oxygen to increase the velocity of their bellows.
Then another team of scientists from Australia made a creative approach to animal science as they were investigating how human brains function. Their experiment involved drunken earthworms placed atop sub-woofer speakers and scientists using "subharmonic waves" to explore the role of nerve-based electric pulses and sound wave signals in the brain.
Due to their experiment, the researchers received an award from the 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for Physics. Swinburne University's Dr. Ivan Maksymov said that they decided to use earthworms because they are cheap and do not require ethics approval. Their axons are quite similar to mammalian nerve fibers. Most importantly, they could easily anesthetize earthworms with vodka.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Entomology Award goes to American Entomologist Richard S Vetter for his study entitled "Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference," which revealed that a lot of entomologists are actually afraid of spiders.
Then the Medicine Prize went to the team of scientists from the Netherlands and Belgium for their discovery of Misophonia or the distress felt when they hear someone chew.
Furthermore, a team from the UK and the US got the Material Science Prize for their pioneering work that demonstrates that knives made from frozen human feces do not work well. At the same time, another team got the Economics Prize for exploring the relationship between national income inequality and the number of mouth-to-mouth kissing that happened.
How did the Ig Nobel Awards start?
Annals of Improbable Research editor and co-founder Marc Abrahams created the Ig Nobels in 1991. He was also the former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Irreproducible Results and was the master of ceremonies at all the award ceremonies.
The award ceremony gives out prizes to ten scientific achievements each year under different categories such as biology, engineering, public health, and interdisciplinary research. They recognize genuine achievements, with the exemption of the three fictional scientists awarded in the first year of Ig Nobel Awards.
The awards are usually criticism via satire, but most often, they draw attention to scientific articles that are humorous or unexpected. An example of this was the award given to Sir Andre Geim in 2000 for levitating the live frog by magnetism, which was later on awarded a real Nobel Prize in 2010 for his work with the electromagnetic properties of graphene. As of 2020, he is the only one who has received both the Ig Nobel Award and Nobel Prize.