Man Who Used Honey Bees to Sting His Own Penis Picks Up Major Science Prize

By James O Malley on at

Congratulations are in order to Michael L Smith and Justin Schmidt who have been jointly awarded this year's Ig Nobel Prize for Physiology and Entomology for their groundbreaking work into the study of pain.

Schmidt is the inventor of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by different insects - and then Smith used this index to look into which parts of the body experience the most pain when stung by a honey bee. His results showed that while the skull, middle toe tip and upper arm are the least painful areas, (perhaps unsurprisingly) the nostril, upper lip and penis shaft are the most painful.

This has all been published in a real scientific journal, seriously.

The award was part of the Ig Nobel Prize, an annual ceremony that recognises the contribution of scientists to some of the weirder areas of scientific research. The awards have been run by Marc Abrahams since 1991 and award in a number of categories.

Other winners this year include a team of scientists who picked up the Chemistry Prize for inventing a chemical recipe for how to partially un-boil an egg in a paper titled "Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies".

The winners of the Literature Prize were Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Terreira and Nick J Enfield, who discovered that the word "huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language. Though they're not sure why.

The physics prize went to a team who figured out that every mammal takes around 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds) to empty their bladders.

Amusingly the Management Prize (the awards don't exactly mirror the Nobels) went to a team which discovered that "many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences."

Perhaps best of all a team won the Biology Prize for discovering that "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."

It sounds like the Maths prize winners should have picked up the History prize too as Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer tried 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."

The Medicine Prize was apparently awarded for "experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities)" and the Economics Prize went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for "for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes". The latter is unusual as rather than be published in a scientific journal, it was based on news reports.

And finally there was the Diagnostic Medicine Prize, which went to a large international team who discovered that "acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps."

Sadly it doesn't seem as though an Ig Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.