September 25, 2013
Did you realize Harvard hosted the 23rd annual Ig Nobel Awards recently? If not, don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault, they’re easy to miss. This ceremony gets very little media attention, nowhere near that lavished on those sexy Nobel Prize Awards, with their fancy-smancy scientists, fawning celebrities and leggy models.
The Igs, as I prefer to call them, recognize scientists who don’t go in for all that glamour. No, these are your basic scientists, interested in basic things, such as the navigation of dung beetles, sleep patterns of cows and the effects alcohol has on one’s idea of beauty; things that interests of the common man is interested in, especially the drinking one.
Okay, let’s get to the dung beetles, who could have given Christopher Columbus pointers on navigation? These little boogers apparently are able to find their way home after traveling many miles in search of precious dung. The way they do it is, after rolling their dung into a neat, little, tidy ball; they climb on top of it and boogie down while studying the Milky Way. At least that’s what Marie Dacke, a biologist at Lund University and her colleagues claim. Now, you’re probably saying, “Where is this Lund University of which you speak?” Well, you can find it in Sweden, a country which has a dung beetle on its flag. The Swedes have always loved the dung beetles.
Now, the Probability Prize went to a team of researchers who discovered the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely the bovine will soon stand up. “Holy, Elmer’s Glue! That’s amazing.” As one might expect, a scientific study of this heart-pounding magnitude could not have occurred without great minds from different countries working together. In this case, we had yahoos from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada using every bit of their combined intelligence to come up with this discovery. Although the aforementioned yahoos did solve one perplexing question, they struck out on the second part of the study. Turns out, it’s much harder to figure out how long a cow will stand before it decides to lie down again. Hey, there’s always next year.
An American and a Canadian teamed together to claim the Archaeology Prize, and all they had to do was eat a shrew, you know, those little mole-like mammals with spike-like teeth. I figured the American would be smart enough to talk the Canadian into eating the shrew, but, no, they each ate a shrew. They parboiled a dead shrew, swallowed it without chewing and then, this is the fun part, meticulously examined their excretions over the next few days. Damn, scientists have all the fun. The reason they did this is to determine which bones would and wouldn’t dissolve inside the human digestive tract; because that’s one question that’s right up there with “What’s the meaning of life?”
The Safety Engineering Prize went to the late Gustano Pizzo for his invention of an anti-hijacking system for aircraft. The electro-mechanical system drops a hijacker through a trap door, then it seals the hijacker into a package before dropping the culprit, complete with parachute, through custom bomb bay doors. Now, I’m no rocket scientist and, apparently, neither is old Pizzo, because what I can’t figure is how do you get the hijacker to stand on the trap door? Ask nicely? Tell him you would like a photo to remember this event by and the lightning is just a little bit better over the trap door? Since Hijackers are control freaks and don’t really care to hear the hijackees opinions, I question the effectiveness of this idea.
Now, my favorite Ig winners are a group of international scientists who published a study in the British Journal of Psychology stating there’s a link between drinking alcohol and the perception of beauty. The study’s profound findings said, yes indeed, people who are drunk think they are more attractive. Hhmmmm, could this be true? Do drunk guys really think they have the allure of Johnny Depp, or do sloshed gals suddenly envision themselves as Rihanna. Well, of course, they do … they’re drunk. The study, however, fell short in my book, because it didn’t factor in the other side of the equation.
How many of you remember a country song entitled “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time?” Well, even if you don’t remember the song you get the idea. After several hours of drinking, a person’s standards drop like a rock. For men, anything wearing a skirt begins to look pretty darned good, while women find anyone wearing pants and taller than them enticing. That last example can lead to a very surprising morning, as well as stories years later about Megan “experimenting in college.”