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The 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes

The magazine Annals of Improbable Research has bestowed the annual Ig Nobel Prizes for scientific research "that makes you laugh, then makes you think." The award ceremony was held virtually this year, which you can see here.

The 2020 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the governments of India and Pakistan, after their diplomats played ding-dong-ditch with each other. A special Management Prize was awarded to five professional hit men in China for each taking a cut of the profits and never committing the murder. A Medical Education Prize was awarded to a group of world leaders for teaching us that "politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can." And there were some actual scientists who won Ig Nobel Prizes. Find out who they are in the complete winners list ahead.

ACOUSTICS PRIZE [AUSTRIA, SWEDEN, JAPAN, USA, SWITZERLAND]
Stephan Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and Tecumseh Fitch, for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air.
REFERENCE: “A Chinese Alligator in Heliox: Formant Frequencies in a Crocodilian,” Stephan A. Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and W. Tecumseh Fitch, Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 218, 2015, pp. 2442-2447.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [CANADA, USA]
Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule, for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows.
REFERENCE: “Eyebrows Cue Grandiose Narcissism,” Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas O. Rule, Journal of Personality, vol. 87, no. 2, 2019, pp. 373-385.

PEACE PRIZE [INDIA, PAKISTAN]
The governments of India and Pakistan, for having their diplomats surreptitiously ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.
REFERENCE: Numerous news reports.

PHYSICS PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UKRAINE, FRANCE, ITALY, GERMANY, UK, SOUTH AFRICA]
Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky, for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency.
REFERENCE: “Excitation of Faraday-like body waves in vibrated living earthworms,” Ivan S. Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky, bioRxiv 10.1101/868521, December 8, 2019.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [UK, POLAND, FRANCE, BRAZIL, CHILE, COLOMBIA, AUSTRALIA, ITALY, NORWAY, ITALY]
Christopher Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries’ national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing.
REFERENCE: “National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing,” Christopher D. Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article no. 6698, 2019.

MANAGEMENT PRIZE [CHINA]
(奚广安) Xi Guang-An, (莫天祥) Mo Tian-Xiang, (杨康生) Yang Kang-Sheng, (杨广生) Yang Guang-Sheng, and (凌显四) Ling Xian Si, five professional hitmen in Guangxi, China, who managed a contract for a hit job (a murder performed for money) in the following way: After accepting payment to perform the murder, Xi Guang-An then instead subcontracted the task to Mo Tian-Xiang, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Kang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Guang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Ling Xian-Si, with each subsequently enlisted hitman receiving a smaller percentage of the fee, and nobody actually performing a murder.
REFERENCE: Numerous news reports.

ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE [USA]
Richard Vetter, for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders, which are not insects.
REFERENCE: “Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference,” Richard S. Vetter, American Entomologist, vol. 59, no. 3, 2013, pp. 168-175.

MEDICINE PRIZE [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM]
Nienke Vulink, Damiaan Denys, and Arnoud van Loon, for diagnosing a long-unrecognized medical condition: Misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds.
REFERENCE: “Misophonia: Diagnostic Criteria for a New Psychiatric Disorder,” Arjan Schroder, Nienke Vulink, and Damiaan Denys, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013, e54706.
REFERENCE: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Effective in Misophonia: An Open Trial,” Arjan E., Schröder, Nienke C. Vulink, Arnoud J. van Loon, and Damiaan A. Denys, Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 217, 2017, pp. 289-294.

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [BRAZIL, UK, INDIA, MEXICO, BELARUS, USA, TURKEY, RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN]
Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.
REFERENCE: Numerous news reports.

NOTE: This is the second Ig Nobel Prize awarded to Alexander Lukashenko. In the year 2013, the Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Alexander Lukashenko, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

MATERIALS SCIENCE PRIZE [USA, UK]
Metin Eren, Michelle Bebber, James Norris, Alyssa Perrone, Ashley Rutkoski, Michael Wilson, and Mary Ann Raghanti, for showing that knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work well.
REFERENCE: “Experimental Replication Shows Knives Manufactured from Frozen Human Feces Do Not Work,” Metin I. Eren, Michelle R. Bebber, James D. Norris, Alyssa Perrone, Ashley Rutkoski, Michael Wilson, and Mary Ann Raghanti, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, vol. 27, no. 102002, October 2019.

See current and past Ig Nobel Prize recipients at the winners page. The Annals of Improbable
Research will have more coverage of the winners sporadically for the rest of this year.


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