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screencap from "Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Promo" // Improbable Research

2015 Ig Nobel Prize Winners Announced, Chicken Rejoices

Original image
screencap from "Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Promo" // Improbable Research

Nearly all mammals urinate for the same amount of time, regardless of size. If you attach a stick to the rear end of a chicken, it will walk like a dinosaur (at least, we think). You can accurately diagnose acute appendicitis in a patient if they felt a lot of pain when their vehicle drove over speed bumps. A bee sting hurts when it’s delivered to the upper arm, but it hurts much, much more on the shaft of the penis, as one committed scientist can tell you from the painful experiment he conducted on himself.

These are a few of the admittedly odd research findings recognized last night in Boston by the Ig Nobel Prizes, perhaps science’s strangest—and funniest—award ceremony. Now in its 25th year, the Ig Nobels recognize “research that makes people laugh and then think,” as its tagline goes.

The Ig Nobels are the brainchild of Improbable Research, a multimedia publisher that covers “research that's maybe good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless,” as the site relates, most notably through the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Their finds are culled from some 2000 science journals.

Getting a laugh isn’t the only goal: “We also hope to spur people's curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what's important and what's not, and what's real and what's not—in science and everywhere else?”

About 1100 people attended the sold-out, often goofy awards ceremony, held at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The 10 winners, chosen from a pool of about 9000 nominees, received their prizes from actual Nobel laureates. They also routinely hammed it up on stage. Check out the scientists behind the appendicitis-speed bump study giving what is clearly an accurate depiction of a real-life scenario: 

Screencap from live webcast of ceremony

The full list of winning research is below. If you’re in the Boston area tomorrow, September 19, some winners will be discussing their research in a free public event at MIT. The Ig Informal Lectures will be held in MIT’s building 10, room 250, at 1 p.m.

CHEMISTRY

For inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg. 

Winners: Callum Ormonde, Colin Raston, Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, and Gregory Weiss

Study: "Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies," published in ChemBioChem

PHYSICS

For testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

Winners: Patricia Yang, David Hu, Jonathan Pham, and Jerome Choo

Study: "Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

LITERATURE

For discovering that the word "huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language—and for not being quite sure why.

Winners: Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, and Nick J. Enfield

Study: "Is 'Huh?' a universal word? Conversational infrastructure and the convergent evolution of linguistic items," published in PLOS ONE

MANAGEMENT

For discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters that—for them—had no dire personal consequences.

Winners: Gennaro Bernile, Vineet Bhagwat, and P. Raghavendra Rau

Study: "What Doesn't Kill You Will Only Make You More Risk-Loving: Early-Life Disasters and CEO Behavior," published in the Journal of Finance

ECONOMICS

To the Bangkok Metropolitan Police, for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes. (Many have criticized this tactic, by the way.)

MEDICINE

Awarded jointly to two groups for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).

Winners: Hajime Kimata; Jaroslava Durdiaková, Peter Celec, Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik 

Studies: "Kissing Reduces Allergic Skin Wheal Responses and Plasma Neurotrophin Levels," published in Physiology & Behavior; "Reduction of Allergic Skin Weal Responses by Sexual Intercourse in Allergic Patients," published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy; "Kissing Selectively Decreases Allergen-Specific IgE Production in Atopic Patients," published in Journal of Psychosomatic Research; and "Prevalence and Persistence of Male DNA Identified in Mixed Saliva Samples After Intense Kissing," published in Forensic Science International Genetics

MATHEMATICS

For trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.

Winners: Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer 

Study: "The Case of Moulay Ismael—Fact or Fancy?" published in PLOS ONE

BIOLOGY

For observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

Winners: Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez, José Iriarte-Díaz 

Study: "Walking Like Dinosaurs: Chickens with Artificial Tails Provide Clues about Non-Avian Theropod Locomotion," published in PLOS ONE

DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE

For determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.

Winners: Diallah Karim, Anthony Harnden, Nigel D'Souza, Andrew Huang, Abdel Kader Allouni, Helen Ashdown, Richard J. Stevens, and Simon Kreckler 

Study: "Pain Over Speed Bumps in Diagnosis of Acute Appendicitis: Diagnostic Accuracy Study," published in BMJ

PHYSIOLOGY and ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE

Awarded jointly, for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting repeatedly on 25 different locations on the body, to learn which locations are the least painful (skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm) and most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

Winners: Justin Schmidt and Michael L. Smith 

Studies: "Hemolytic Activities of Stinging Insect Venoms,"  published in the Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology; and "Honey Bee Sting Pain Index by Body Location," published in PeerJ

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Minh Hoang, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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The 5 Most Valuable Pokemon Cards
Original image
Minh Hoang, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

As a teenager, Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri was so fond of collecting insects that classmates called him “Mr. Bug.” While it might not have been an affectionate label, Tajiri had the last laugh: His Pokemon video game, originally released for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996, has become an enduring multimedia success, selling billions in games, merchandise, and phone apps.

The goal of collecting and pitting monsters against one another has been particularly appealing for trading card collectors, who have created an entire secondary market for the low-tech version of the game. First editions, misprints, and other characteristics all affect value. If you’re curious, take a look at the five most valuable Pokemon cards according to Heritage Auctions and other sources.

1. PIKACHU ILLUSTRATOR

A Pikachu Illustrator card
stephychu025, eBay

One of the earliest cards to come out of the Pokemon franchise was this promotional card of Pikachu that was given out to winners of an illustration contest in 1998. An estimated 20 to 39 copies were issued. In late 2016, Heritage Auctions sold one for a whopping $54,970. In 2017, an eBay seller was asking $100,000 for a card graded by professional authenticators to be in virtually perfect condition.

2. CHARIZARD

A first edition Charizard Pokemon card
bakemat_0, eBay

This dragon-esque creature was first seen in 1999. Nearly 20 years later, a perfect “10” graded card sold for $11,999.  

3. MASTER’S KEY PRIZE CARD

A Pokemon Master's Key card
ebirdman, eBay

Given out during a 2010 card championship in Japan, only 34 copies of the Master's Key Prize Card are thought to exist. The scarcity helps the cards fetch four figures when they're spotted on the open market.

4. PRE-RELEASE RAICHU

A Pokemon Raichu card
sken1851, eBay

Collectors love cards that were never intended for public distribution, and this Raichu card fits the bill. Although unconfirmed, Pokemon lore has it that product distributor Wizards of the Coast made just 10 of these Raichu cards for their employees and stamped “pre release” on the front. While it’s rarely offered for sale, collectors believe it can fetch up to $10,000.

5. POKEMON SNAP CARDS

A Pokemon Snap card
base_set_sales, eBay

In a bit of product synergy, Nintendo’s 1999 N64 game, Pokemon Snap, ran a promotion in which players could take a “candid” shot of Pokemon in the game and send it in to a Japanese magazine. Winners would have the image placed on a card. Due to their rarity, the Snaps have reportedly sold for over $8000.

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Radio Flyer
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Pop Culture
Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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