I will admit that I am greatly impressed by Andre Geim, who won both the Ig (for levitating a frog, I think he showed there was enough iron in the haemoglobin to be able to do this?) and the Nobel for graphene. But this year there some interest:
Scientists at Oxford University were awarded the Diagnostic Medicine Prize for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evidence when the patient is driven over speed bumps.
Dr Helen Ashdown of the Department of Primary Care Health Services at the University of Oxford said: “It may sound odd, but asking patients whether their pain worsened going over speed bumps on their way to hospital could help doctors in a diagnosis. It turns out to be as good as many other ways of assessing people with suspected appendicitis.”
The Physics prize went to researchers at Georgia Tech who found that most mammals take 21 seconds to urinate, while the Chemistry Prize was awarded to the University of California for inventing a chemical recipe to un-boil an egg. They added urea to a hardboiled egg to break down proteins and return it to its liquid form, before using a machine to re-assemble the broken pieces.
‘Yes, we invented a way to unboil a hen egg,’ said Professor Gregory Weiss, a biochemist at UC Irvine. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold.’
The prize for Mathematics was awarded to the University of Vienna for attempts to determine whether the bloodthirsty Emperor of Morocco Moulay Ismael really could have fathered 888 children between 1697 and 1727.
The scientists worked out that it was theoretically possible, if the leader had sex once a day for 32 years without a break.
Now there’s something to aspire to, eh?
Not the 888 children, I aspire (still) to getting a paper in the Christmas edition of the BMJ, and then winning an Ig Nobel for it.
“And finally, the Economics Prize was awarded to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay policeman extra cash if they refused to take bribes”
Centuries behind the times. King Edward I (?) when setting up the Kings Justices to travel the country to hear important trials, stipulated that the clerics be rewarded so as to make the possibility of bribery as low as possible.
The levitating frog works because water is “diamagnetic” (roughly speaking, very weakly anti-magnetic) and so is repelled by a magnetic field. The method was originally used to levitate a water drop, and the frog is just a more dramatic example of the same thing. The effect is very weak, so you need a very strong magnet.
See http://www.ru.nl/hfml/research/levitation/diamagnetic/ for the slightly more detailed version.
What Jonathan Jones said. You can magnetically levitate any diamagnetic substance given a sufficiently strong field. Interestingly the same is not true of static magnetic levitation of paramagnetic substances due to Earnshaw’s Theorem, which is why magnetic bearings need an active control system.
I particularly liked the one which discovered that attaching a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken made it walk like a tyrannosaurus.
Obvious really, when you think about it – but true boffin genius thinks about it first.
Also on the beeb site with more pics.
“Linguists Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira and Nick Enfield of the Max Planck Institute, received the Ig Novel Literature Prize”
A shame that the most appropriate neologisms are accidental.
“Yes, we invented a way to unboil a hen egg”: the traditional method works very well. You feed the boiled egg to a chicken.
1697 to 1727 is 31 years (from 1/1/97 to 31/12/27). How does have sex in the 32nd year help? I must have a fundamental misunderstanding of mathematics or pregnancy.
What’s so bad about the appendicitis one? Sounds quite useful.