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10 quirky questions answered by scientists this year

Posting in Science

As a spoof on science’s highest honor, every year the Annals of Improbable Research award the Ig Nobel Prizes to work that “first make people laugh, then make them think.” The 23rd annual awards ceremony this week featured Nobel Prize winners handing awards out to these 10 honorees, Fast Company reports.

  1. Medicine: Can listening to opera music help heart transplant patients? Opera listening post-op mice survived 26 days, whereas mice listening to Enya survived only 11.
  2. Psychology: Do drunk people think they’re more attractive? Researchers asked people at a bar how attractive they were -- the more drinks they had, the hotter they imagined themselves.
  3. Joint Prize in Biology & Astronomy: When African “ball-rolling” dung beetles get lost, can they navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way? The insects use the night sky to orient themselves and to transport their dung balls on straight paths.
  4. Safety Engineering: Is it possible to trap airplane hijackers and drop them out of the plane? A 1970s invention drops a hijacker through a trap door, seals him in a package, expels him through specially installed bomb bay doors.
  5. Physics: Are people physically capable of running across the surface of a pond? Yes, but only on the reduced gravity of the moon, where less muscle is needed.
  6. Chemistry: How do onions make people cry? It’s complicated, but at least we now know the most important enzyme that triggers the tears.
  7. Archaeology: Why would a person consent to swallowing a parboiled shrew and then carefully examine everything excreted afterwards? To found out which bones would dissolve in the human digestive system, and which wouldn’t.
  8. Peace: Can you make it illegal to applaud in public? The state police of Belarus arrested a one-armed man for applauding.
  9. Probability: Is a cow more likely to stand up sooner if it’s been lying down longer? Yes. Can you predict how soon a standing cow will lie down again? No.
  10. Public Health: Under what circumstances is surgical management of an epidemic of penile amputations not recommended? If the amputated penis has been partially eaten by a duck.

[Fast Company]

Image: J. Fang

— By on September 15, 2013, 2:44 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure