It’s the Nobel prize season, and the Ig Nobels are being awarded as well. One Ig Nobel was awarded for a study showing that chickens like beautiful humans, by allowing them to peck at the portraits they prefer. More animal researchers won awards?one for a study of duck homosexual necrophilia (having sex with dead ducks) and another for a chemical analysis of a Japanese statue that repels pigeons.
The Physics Prize went to Australians who tested which floor works best to drag sheep across for shearing. “It’s a serious problem,” says researcher John Culvenor. Another team won an Ig Nobel for showing that London taxi drivers, who must navigate around an incredibly complicated city, actually have bigger brains. The rear parts of their hippocampus grow as they learn more routes and shortcuts.
The prize for engineering went to the late Edward Murphy and George Nichols, who in 1949 proved that “If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it,” otherwise known as Murphy’s Law, which is now usually stated as, “Everything that can go wrong, will.” For psychology, the prize went to a study entitled “Politicians’ Uniquely Simple Personalities.”
The Ig Nobel Peace Prize went to Lal Bihari of India, for continuing to lead an active life after being declared legally dead, including creating the Association of Dead People. He found thousands of other Indians with the same problem, in a government scam in which officials are bribed to declare landowners dead so their property can be inherited. Ig Nobel organizer Marc Abrahams says, “The Indian government, which didn’t recognize his life, gave him a passport. But the American government, the paragon of efficiency and helpfulness, won’t give him a visa [so he couldn’t attend the ceremony]. You would expect a man who comes back from the dead would get a little extra help.”
John Trinkaus won a prize for figuring out the percentage of young people who wear baseball caps facing backward rather than forward. He also studied what percentage of automobile drivers fail to completely stop at one particular stop-sign and what percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket’s express checkout lane.
The Ig Nobel Prize for Economics went to Karl Schwarzler and the principality of Liechtenstein “for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs and other gatherings.”
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