Weird science: Ig Nobel 2012 Awards

If you think that science research is all about sober reflection, mathematical equations and groundbreaking ideas, think again. The Ig Nobel Awards celebrates the most ludicrous, the weirdest, but always the most thought-provoking research in science.

For example, our favourite award from this year’s ceremony came in the physics category. A combined US/UK team looked into the motion of a ponytail, coming up with a new equation which predicts the shape of a ponytail when joggers run.

Other winners included research into why coffee spills out of a moving mug, how chimpanzees can recognise each other just from their bottoms and research into why Swedish residents have green hair.

Although the awards might sound like a spoof, much of the research on show is intended to tackle real-world problems and is published in peer-reviewed, scholarly journals.

Indeed, one of the winning scientists responsible for the “Ponytail Shape Equation” is a researcher for Unilever – who manufactures a number of hair care products.

So no matter how odd, leftfield or unusual your research, there is always a reward – and an application – for your studies.  

Our favourite Ig Nobel 2012 awards

Acoustics: Kurihara and Tsukada (Japan) for the SpeechJammer –a machine that disrupts your speech by making you hear your own words with a slight delay.

Chemistry: Pettersson (Sweden) for solving why certain residents of Anderslov, Sweden have green hair.

Literature: The US Government General Accountability Office, for its report about reports about reports recommending the preparation of a report about the report about the reports about reports.

Anatomy: de Waal and Pokorny (Netherlands and USA) for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from a picture of their bottoms.

Neuroscience: Bennett, Baird, Miller and Wolford (USA) for showing that brain research can find meaningful brain activity using instruments and statistics anywhere – including a dead salmon.
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