Vibrating Earthworms, Helium-Filled Alligators, And Knives Made Of Poop

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Every year for the past 30 years - at about the same time that the Nobel Prizes are doled out to recognize brilliant and commendable scientific, scholarly and humanitarian achievements - the reverse is also true ...

... The Ig Nobel Awards are presented - by the satirical "Annals of Improbable Research" magazine - to recognize goofy academic work, inventions and governmental policies.

Usually hosted at a gala ceremony at Harvard University in Massachusetts, the 30th annual Ig Nobels – like everything else this year – had to be conducted on-line.

And the 2020 winners were ...

ACOUSTICS PRIZE: Stephan Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and Tecumseh Fitch (Austria, Sweden, Japan, U.S.A. and Switzerland), for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air. “A Chinese Alligator in Heliox: Formant Frequencies in a Crocodilian” in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

ig nobel
From the research paper: how to heliumize an alligator.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule, for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows. “Eyebrows Cue Grandiose Narcissism” in The Journal of Personality.

PEACE PRIZE: The governments of India and Pakistan, for having their diplomats surreptitiously ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky (Australia, Ukraine, France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and South Africa), for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency. “Excitation of Faraday-like Body Waves in Vibrated Living Earthworms” in bioRxiv.

ig nobel
From the research paper: how to vibrate an earthworm.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: Christopher Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Zelazniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan (United Kingdom, Poland, France, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Australia, Italy and Norway), for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries’ national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing. “National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing” in Scientific Reports.

MANAGEMENT PRIZE: Xi Guang-An, Mo Tian-Xiang, Yang Kang-Sheng, Yang Guang-Sheng, and Ling Xian Si (China). They were five professional hitmen in Guangxi, China, who managed a contract for a hit job (a murder performed for money) in the following way … After accepting payment to perform the murder, Xi Guang-An then instead subcontracted the task to Mo Tian-Xiang, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Kang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Guang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Ling Xian-Si … with each subsequently enlisted hitman receiving a smaller percentage of the fee … and nobody actually performing a murder.

ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE: Richard Vetter (U.S.A.), for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders – which are not insects. “Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference” in American Entomologist.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Nienke Vulink, Damiaan Denys, and Arnoud van Loon (Netherlands and Belgium), for diagnosing a long-unrecognized medical condition: Misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds. “Misophonia: Diagnostic Criteria for a New Psychiatric Disorder,” in PLoS ONE; and “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Effective in Misophonia: An Open Trial,” in The Journal of Affective Disorders.

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE: Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the U.S.A., Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can. NOTE: This is the second Ig Nobel Prize awarded to Alexander Lukashenko. In 2013, the Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Alexander Lukashenko, for making it illegal to applaud in public, and to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

MATERIALS SCIENCE PRIZE: Metin Eren, Michelle Bebber, James Norris, Alyssa Perrone, Ashley Rutkoski, Michael Wilson, and Mary Ann Raghanti (U.S.A. and the United Kingdom), for showing that knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work well. “Experimental Replication Shows Knives Manufactured from Frozen Human Feces Do Not Work” in The Journal of Archaeological Science.