Impact Nobels

While the Nobel Prize recognises outstanding contributions to the field of science, each year the Ig Nobels are also awarded to scientists for research that “makes you laugh, then makes you think”. Here Impact takes a look at some of the more – ahem – interesting research out there.

DIY Snake Venom Cure

In 1994, a former marine was bitten on the lips by his pet rattlesnake. Insightfully, he decided to attempt to remove the venom by attaching spark plugs to his lips, and repeatedly revving his car engine for five minutes. Shockingly (no pun intended) this only worsened the matter and the man had to be airlifted to hospital. The two doctors who treated the man – with a more reliable antivenom treatment – later capitalised on the man’s agony through a published a paper entitled “failure of electroshock treatment for rattlesnake envenomation”.

Make Love, Not War

Research has come to light that the US military investigated building a ‘gay bomb’ that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Plans involved the release of an aphrodisiac chemical sparking homosexual behaviour among the troops in an attempt to distract and disrupt enemy forces.

Rollercoaster Asthma

Find yourself without an inhaler when you’re overcome with a sudden asthma attack? Try jumping on the nearest rollercoaster. Arguably not the most practical solution, but recent studies have shown that the positive emotional stress of riding a rollercoaster can temporarily cure the symptoms of asthma.

Sheep Technology

Have you ever thought about efficient sheep shearing shed floor design? Some people at the University of Ballarat in Australia had. Their study, using experienced sheep shearers, found that sheep dragging force changed significantly with different floor texture and slope. Soon enough the ideal floor was found (thank God!), so now shearers finally know. In case you were wondering, it was a floor ‘sloped at 1:10 constructed of timber battens… [resulting] in a mean dragging force 63.6N (15%) lower than the worst combination’.

Swearing Reduces Pain

When you walk into a sharp edge or drop an unfortunately hard object on your toe, what is there to do besides exclaim “fuck!”. Recent research has found that swearing actually increases our tolerance to pain and reduces our perception of it, compared to yelling another non-swear word after experiencing pain.

Clocky: The Runaway Alarm Clock

Missing your 9am lectures due to endlessly pushing the snooze button on your alarm clock? This was also the problem for Gauri Nanda, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, who after regularly being late for classes, decided to come up with a solution. ‘Clocky’ was born: an alarm clock with wheels that hides itself, forcing you to wake up and hunt it down. Nanda won the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize in Economics and has gone on to set up a successful business.

Emergency bra

Girls: there’s a sudden emergency and what’s the first thing you do? Whip off your bra? Sure, why not? The Ig Nobel Public Health Prize of 2009 went to Elena Bodnar, who designed and patented a bra that can, believe it not, be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks in times of crisis. One is for the user and the other can go to a needy bystander of the user’s choice.

Cute Makes You Careful

A study carried out by researchers at the University of Virginia revealed that cuteness improves carefulness. Using a “fine-motor dexterity task” (the game ‘Operation’) to test carefulness, they discovered that participants’ performance in the task improved upon being shown very cute images (little puppies and kittens), compared to being shown slightly cute images (bigger dogs and cats). The researchers have taken from the study a suggestion that “sensitivity to those possessing cute features” helps “caring for delicate human young”. What the rest of the world has taken from the study is a better ‘Operation’ strategy.

By Jessica Hewitt-Dean, Emily Metcalfe, Faiza Peeran & Steph Harris

Photo by Miguel de Leon 


Leave a Reply