Solo Colonoscopies, Cannibal Calories, and More 2018 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

By George Dvorsky on at

From workplace voodoo dolls and self-inflicted colonoscopies to cannibalistic diets and using roller coasters to pass kidney stones, here are the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes.

It’s that time of year again, when some of the strangest science gets its turn to shine. To be clear, the Ig Nobel Prizes aren’t meant to diminish or demean scientific work, nor do they recognise dubious or bad science. Rather, it’s an opportunity to highlight some of the weirder work that gets done in research labs around the world, or scientific work that, quite frankly, is fucking hilarious. The tagline from the group behind the Ig Nobel Prize, Improbable Research, says it best: “Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.” The winners of the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize were announced yesterday during a ceremony, if it can be called that, at Harvard University.

Among the 10 award winners on Thursday night was James Cole, a researcher from the University of Brighton, who showed that human flesh doesn’t pack the same caloric punch as that of wild animals, and that cannibalism wasn’t worth the trouble, given the alternatives.

Lindie Liang, a Canadian business professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and the recipient of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in economics, discovered that workers who take out their aggression on their bosses through the use of voodoo dolls tend to feel better because “their injustice perceptions are deactivated,” a fancy way of saying that justice was served.

The medicine prize went to Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger for showing that roller coaster rides can hasten the passage of kidney stones, while the medical education prize was awarded to Akira Horiuchi for his paper, “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Calibre, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope,” the title alone being deserving of an Ig Nobel.

By measuring the effectiveness of human saliva to clean dirty surfaces, Portuguese researcher Paula Romão and her colleagues earned the Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry, while the literature prize was awarded to a team of Australian researchers who had the audacity to show that most people who use complicated products never bother to read the instruction manual (their paper has a fantastic title: “Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products”).

Other awards went to research showing that chimps can imitate humans just as well as humans can imitate chimps (I’m still wrapping my head around this one); a paper demonstrating how elite wine experts can actually detect, through the sense of smell, when a single fly has landed in their glass of wine; researchers who used postage stamps to monitor erections while men were sleeping; and an examination of how frequently motorists shout and curse at each other (more than a quarter of us do it at some point, it found).

So there you have it, folks: science that’s supposed to make us laugh and think. Kudos to the winners, and thanks for thinking outside the box. [Ig Nobel Prize]