AP

Constipated scorpions, love at first sight inspire Ig Nobels

Sep 15, 2022, 3:01 PM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 9:04 am

BOSTON (AP) — The sex lives of constipated scorpions, cute ducklings with an innate sense of physics, and a life-size rubber moose may not appear to have much in common, but they all inspired the winners of this year’s Ig Nobels, the prize for comical scientific achievement.

Held less than a month before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced, Thursday’s 32nd annual Ig Nobel prize ceremony was for the third year in a row a prerecorded affair webcast on the Annals of Improbable Research magazine’s website.

The winners, honored in 10 categories, also included scientists who found that when people on a blind date are attracted to each other, their heart rates synchronize, and researchers who looked at why legal documents can be so utterly baffling, even to lawyers themselves.

Even though the ceremony was prerecorded, it retained much of the fun of the live event usually held at Harvard University.

As has been an Ig Nobel tradition, real Nobel laureates handed out the prizes, using a bit of video trickery: The Nobel laureates handed the prize off screen, while the winners reached out and brought a prize they had been sent and self-assembled into view.

Winners also received a virtually worthless Zimbabwean $10 trillion bill.

Curiosity Ig-nited? Learn more about some of the winners:

GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW

“Science is fun. My sort of a tagline is you’re not doing science if you’re not having fun,” said Frank Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who shared the physics Ig Nobel for studying why ducklings follow their mothers in single-file formation.

It’s about energy conservation: The ducklings are drafting, much like stock cars, cyclists and runners do in a race, he said.

“It all has to do with the flow that occurs behind that leading organism and the way that moving in formation can actually be an energetic benefit,” said the appropriately named Fish, whose specialty is studying how animals swim.

He shared the prize with researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, who found that the ducklings actually surfed in their mother’s wake.

THAT SYNCING FEELING

Eliska Prochazkova’s personal experiences inspired her research on dating that earned her and colleagues the cardiology Ig Nobel.

She had no problems finding her apparent perfect match on dating apps, yet she often found there was no spark when they met face-to-face.

So she set people up on blind dates in real social settings, measured their physiological reactions and found that the heart rates of people attracted to each other synchronized.

So is her work evidence of “love at first sight”?

“It really depends, on how you define love,” Prochazkova, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in an email. “What we found in our research was that people were able to decide whether they want to date their partner very quickly. Within the first two seconds of the date, the participants made a very complex idea about the human sitting in front of them.”

A CRUEL STING

Solimary García-Hernández and Glauco Machado of the University of São Paulo in Brazil won the biology Ig Nobel for studying whether constipation ruins a scorpion’s sex life.

Scorpions can detach a body part to escape a predator — a process called autotomy. But when they lose their tails, they also lose the last portion of the digestive tract, which leads to constipation — and, eventually, death, they wrote in the journal “Integrated Zoology.”

“The long-term decrease in the locomotor performance of autotomized males may impair mate searching,” they wrote.

THAT’S A MOOSE, DUMMY

Magnus Gers won the safety engineering Ig Nobel for making a moose “crash test dummy” for his master’s thesis at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, which was published by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute.

Frequent moose vs. vehicle collisions on Sweden’s highways often result in injuries and death to both human and animal, Gers said in an email. Yet automobile makers rarely include animal crashes in their safety testing.

“I believe this is a fascinating and still very unexplored area that deserves all the attention it can get,” he said. “This topic is mystical, life threatening and more relevant than ever.”

CAN YOU SPEAK LEGALESE?

Anyone who has ever read a terms of service agreement knows that legal documents can be downright incomprehensible.

That frustrated Eric Martinez, a graduate student in the brain and cognitive science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also has a law degree from Harvard.

He, Francis Mollica and Edward Gibson shared the literature Ig Nobel for analyzing what makes legal documents unnecessarily difficult to understand, research that appeared in the journal “Cognition.”

“Ultimately, there’s kind of a hope that lawyers will think a little more with the reader in mind,” he said. “Clarity doesn’t just benefit the layperson, it also benefits lawyers.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

7 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

7 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

9 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

9 days ago

(Pexels photo)...

Associated Press

Baby in Kansas City, Missouri, dies after her mother mistakenly put her in an oven

An infant in Missouri died when her mother mistakenly put her down for a nap in an oven, a prosecutor said Saturday.

10 days ago

Former Arizona Department of Corrections boss Charles Ryan received probation on Feb. 9, 2024. (AP ...

Associated Press

Former Arizona corrections boss sentenced to probation over armed 2022 standoff with police

Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan was sentenced Friday to probation for his no-contest plea to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a 2022 armed standoff at his Tempe home.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Constipated scorpions, love at first sight inspire Ig Nobels