by Simon Sharwood
The annual Ig Nobel Prizes were handed out on Thursday night, as always “honoring achievements that make people laugh, then think”.
Among this year’s winners were “Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird.” Foster turned that research into a book, Being a Beast, in which he “set out to know the ultimate other: the non-humans, the beasts.” That effort saw him live “… alongside badgers for weeks, sleeping in a sett in a Welsh hillside and eating earthworms, learning to sense the landscape through his nose rather than his eyes.”
Foster’s Oxford University bio says he’s “a Fellow of Green Templeton College, a Senior Research Associate at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, a Research Associate at the the Ethox and HeLEX Centres, (at at the University of Oxford), and a practising barrister.” Foster shared the Biology Prize with Thomas Thwaites, who created “prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.”
Volkswagen won the Chemistry prize “for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.”
The Psychology Prize went to the authors of a paper titled “From Junior to Senior Pinocchio: A Cross-Sectional Lifespan Investigation of Deception” that the Ig Nobel committee summarised as “asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.”
Japanese researchers won the Perception Prize for research titled “Perceived size and Perceived Distance of Targets Viewed From Between the Legs: Evidence for Proprioceptive Theory”, while a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” took out the Peace Prize.
The Ig Nobels are misunderstood as deriding rubbish science, but are actually about celebrating how even seemingly-obscure science gets us thinking. As the awards’ backer, Improbable Research, point out:
Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; So can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.
The full list of winners is here: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/
Winners reportedly took home Ten Trillion Dollars, sadly Zimbabwe dollars, or about US$0.40.