Cats and crocodiles make the Ig No­ble spoof win­ning list

Irish Examiner - - World News - Scott Malone

Sci­en­tists who in­ves­ti­gated whether cats were liq­uid or solid, how hold­ing a croc­o­dile could in­flu­ence gam­bling, and whether play­ing the didgeri­doo could cure snor­ing have been hon­oured at the Ig No­bel Prize spoof awards.

The prizes are the brain- of Marc Abra­hams, edi­tor of the ‘An­nals of Im­prob­a­ble Re­search’, and en­cour­age peo­ple to think in un­usual ways.

“We hope that this will get peo­ple back into the habits they prob­a­bly had when they were kids of pay­ing at­ten­tion to odd things and hold­ing out, for a mo­ment, and de­cid­ing whether they are good or only af­ter they have a chance to think,” Abra­hams said.

French re­searcher, Mar­cAn­toine Fardin’s 2014 study, ‘Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liq­uid?’, was in­spired by in­ter­net pho­tos of cats tucked into glasses, buck­ets, and sinks.

The win­ner of the Ig No­bel in physics used math­e­matchild ical for­mu­las to con­clude that young cats and kit­tens hold their phys­i­cal shape longer than older, lazier fe­lines.

Eco­nomics win­ners, Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer, con­ducted an ex­per­i­ment in which prob­lem gam­blers and non-prob­lem gam­blers han­dled one-me­tre (3.3-foot) long crocodiles be­bad fore play­ing a sim­u­lated slot ma­chine.

The 2010 study, con­ducted on 103 peo­ple in Queens­land, Aus­tralia, found that prob­lem gam­blers were likely to place higher bets af­ter han­dling the rep­tiles, as their brains had mis­in­ter­preted the ex­cite­ment of hold­ing a danger­ous an­i­mal as a sign they were on a lucky streak.

A multi-na­tional team of six re­searchers won the Peace Prize for the 2005 pa­per, ‘Didgeri­doo Play­ing as Al­ter­na­tive Treat­ment for Ob­struc­tive Sleep Ap­nea Syn­drome: Ran­domised Con­trolled Trial.’

The con­clu­sion that the Aus­tralian wind in­stru­ment might be of some ben­e­fit was based not on the didgeri­doo’s dron­ing tone, but rather that the daily prac­tice in­volved a lot of blow­ing, and may have strength­ened the up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract, mak­ing breathing eas­ier.

The awards, now in their 27th year, are to be handed out by ac­tual No­bel Prize win­ners, in a cer­e­mony at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, on Thurs­day.

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