- BBC World, @bbc_ciencia
A foot slipping on a banana peel and… thump and thump.
This famous comedy image has gained recognition as an object of scientific study.
But not just any one, but this year’s IgNobel Prize.
These mocking prizes, which have become almost as famous as the original Nobels, announced their winners Thursday at a ceremony at Harvard University.
The Japanese team led by researcher Kiyoshi Mabuchi, from the University of Kitasato, won the physics prize for measuring the friction of banana skins in the laboratory and showing why the peels of apples and oranges are not so dangerous.
These awards from the Annals of Improbable Investigation humor magazine may seem ridiculous at first glance.
However, digging a little deeper you can see the serious intentions behind what seems like a joke.
Japanese scientists are interested in how friction and lubrication result from the movement of our limbs.
And the follicular polyscaride gels that give banana skin its slippery properties are also found in the membranes where our bones meet, reports the BBC’s Jonathan Amos.
“This concept will help design joint prostheses,” Kiyoshi Mabuchi told the BBC.
This was the 24th edition of the IgNobel Awards, and each time they have more repercussions.
According to Marc Abrahams, editor of Annals of Improbable Research, scientists are now doing studies with an eye toward gaining an Ig.
“We are getting around 9,000 nominations a year. About 10-20% are self-nominations, but these nominations rarely win,” Abrahams told the BBC.
“This happens because they’re usually just trying to be funny. On the other hand, the winners may not start out like that and find out later that what they’re doing is funny.”
The complete list of winners of the IgNobel Prizes 2014
- Physical:Kiyoshi Mabuchi of Kitasato University, Japan, for “measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and one banana skinand between a banana skin and the ground, when a person stands on top of a banana skin that is in the I usually“.
- Neuroscience: Kang Lee and colleagues, from the University of Toronto, Canada, for “trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a Toast“.
- psychology: Peter Jonason and colleagues, from the University of Western Sydney, Australia, “for gathering evidence that people who habitually sleep late are, on average, more egotisticalplus manipulators and more psychopathic than those who usually get up early.
- Public health: Jaroslav Flegr and colleagues, Charles University, Czech Republic, “for investigating whether it is dangerous to have a cat for the mental health humans”.
- biology: Vlastimil Hart and colleagues, from the Czech University of Life Sciences, for “meticulously documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate I prefer to align the axis of your body with the lines North South of Earth’s geomagnetic fields”.
- Art: Marina de Tommaso and colleagues, from the University of Bari, Italy, for “measuring the pain relative that people suffer when looking at a ugly paintingmore than a beautiful painting, while being shot with a powerful laser beam (in the hand)”.
- Economy: The Italian National Institute of Statistics for “taking the lead and fulfilling the mandate of the European Union for each country to increase the official size of the national economy including income from prostitution, the sale of illegal drugs, smuggling and other illicit financial transactions”.
- Medicine:Ian Humphreys and colleagues, Michigan State University, USA, “for addressing the uncontrollable nosebleed using the nose wrap method with strips of ham“.
- arctic science: Eigil Reimers and colleagues, from the University of Oslo, Norway, “for testing how a reindeer reacts to seeing humans dressed as polar bears“.
- Nutrition: Raquel Rubio and colleagues, from the Institute for Food Research and Technology of Catalonia, Spain, “for their study entitled ‘Characterization of lactic acid bacteria isolated from baby droppings as a potential probiotic food crop for fermented sausages’“.