Why do old men have big ears? Can smiling at a crocodile affect your desire to gamble? And most importantly, can cats act as both a liquid and a solid?
These are the questions that keep us awake at night. Fortunately, there are scientists working diligently on these puzzles, as well as many other weird and curious questions. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, and most recently were celebrated at the 2017 Ig Nobel Awards, a scientific recognition of the strangest and most obscure scientific experiments or studies done in that year.
- Physics: Marc Antoine-Fardin who used fluid dynamics to answer a question inquiring minds want to know–are cats both a solid and a liquid? In a 2014 paper titled “On the Rheology of Cats,” that pressing question was addressed.
- Peace: Milo Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli demonstrated that playing the didgeridoo five times a week for four months could cure people of sleep apnea and rid them of snoring.
- Economics: Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer were awarded the prize for economics “for studying how contact with a live crocodile affects a person’s willingness to gamble.” They found “reptile-induced arousal” was found to influence betting patterns on electronic gambling machines.
- Medicine: A study by Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly and Tao Jiang used brain scans to measure how much some people are disgusted by cheese.
Even though the awards show has been criticized for being almost mocking towards research seen as irrelevant and trivial, it’s more accurately an irreverent look at the inner workings of the scientific community, since even trivial research can lead to massive discoveries in ways you would never expect.
In the immortal words of the Ig Nobel Awards closing statement “If you didn’t win a prize—and especially if you did—better luck next year!”