Watch out for silly No­bels

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD -

Cam­bridge – Sci­en­tists tak­ing on the deep ques­tions of whether cats are liq­uid or solid and whether play­ing the didgeri­doo can help cure snor­ing, were hon­oured on this week at the Ig No­bel Prize spoof awards.

The prizes are the brain­child of Marc Abra­hams, editor of the An­nals of Im­prob­a­ble Re­search, and are in­tended not to hon­our the best or worst in science, but rather to high­light re­search that en­cour­ages 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 bad only af­ter they have a chance to think,” Abra­hams says.

Some of the hon­ourees tend to­wards the spu­ri­ous: French re­searcher Marc-An­toine Fardin’s 2014 study “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liq­uid?” was in­spired by in­ter­net pho­tos of cats tucked into glasses and buck­ets.

A multi­na­tional team won the Peace Prize for a 2005 paper on didgeri­doo play­ing and sleep ap­nea syn­drome. 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 at Har­vard Univer­sity on Thurs­day.

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