For the fourth year in a row, the IG Nobel Prize award ceremony will be an entirely online event, “due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Apparently, organizers still estimate that the risk of coronavirus infection in the United States is higher than it is here, where mass gatherings have once again become a daily practice. So the traditional theater, the Sanders Theater on Harvard’s campus, remains empty for the 33rd Annual Ige Nobel Prize Ceremony.
The organisation, as always, is led by Mark Abrahams, editor of the equally satirical science magazine
Annals of Improbable ResearchNever miss an opportunity to make corny jokes.
For the online ceremony, they came up with a PDF trophy that could be sent electronically so the award winners could collect it themselves. This way they can collect the award remotely from the real Nobel Prize winners who folded such a paper cup.
Unlike the real Nobel Prize, a specific discovery is not rewarded, but rather brilliant articles published in the scientific literature.
This year ten won awards. For example, the Communications Prize went to an international team that mapped the brain activity of test subjects who spoke backwards. The medicine prize went to pathological research by another international team that inventoried whether the same number of nasal hairs had grown in the nostrils of twenty deceased people (ten men and ten women). Result: There is an almost equal distribution with an average of 120 hairs in each nostril.
education Bored teachers
Boredom is contagious. A bored teacher gets the audience he deserves. Bored students are less motivated. Although a lot of research has been done on bored students, little is known about teachers who have to drag themselves through class by their hair. Psychologists have published about this in
. British Journal of Educational Psychology
More than half of the students drag themselves during at least half of the lectures in the slightest state of arousal. It is well known and clear that boredom is a disabling emotion, which has a detrimental effect not only on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to learn, but also on learning performance. But what about teachers?
The researchers had 17 teachers and 437 students ages 14 complete a questionnaire for two weeks after the semester ended. Expected result: When teachers are bored, or when students have the impression that the teacher is bored, they become less motivated to learn. It does not matter whether the teacher is really bored: surprisingly, students often estimate that the teacher is bored more than he himself reported.
The question that left the researchers: What makes students think that the teacher is bored? behavior? a movement? What researchers don’t think about: Many 15-year-olds probably can’t imagine that a teacher would enjoy something that would almost put them under anesthesia.
Another unanswered question: what about interaction? Do bored students also cause teachers to be bored? How can you appear anything but bored as a teacher in front of a group of yawning, sleepy, texting, and exhausted students?
Mechanical Engineer Necrobot spider
Why make a robot that imitates a spider, when you can use a real spider? The mechanical engineering award goes this year
For American researchers Who took designs inspired by life in every sense of the word. They call their new branch of robotics Necrorobotics.
Spiders are an inspiration to roboticists because they can move flexibly on all types of surfaces and have a lot of strength in their legs. The mechanism in their legs is special. While mammals have pairs of muscles that make opposing movements, spider legs have only pulling muscles. They expand with air pressure. That’s why dead spiders’ legs are always crooked.
In this study, the researchers used “the intact body of an inanimate biological creature (a dead spider) as a ready-to-use bioengineer.” The biological creature in question was a wolf spider. He received a hollow needle into his abdomen where the legs connect, sealed tightly with a drop of glue. When air is forced through the needle, the legs separate. The necrobot spider can lift objects 1.3 times its body weight. After two days the clutch becomes unusable and the spider dries up.
A feature of their “design” is that this handle is biodegradable, the researchers wrote. But is the “design” scalable too?
Physics Mix the anchovies
Wind, tides, and the sun that heat the upper layer of water: all of these factors can cause turbulence in surface waters. But there is another way in which the water column can be “mixed” vertically,
According to Spanish and British scientists in Natural earth sciences: Biomixing. With this phenomenon, animals create eddies in the water, allowing the different layers of water to mix.
This sounds a bit abstract, and it has been for a long time – which is why researchers spent two weeks in the summer of 2018 on a research boat off the coast of Galicia in northwest Spain, equipped with an instrument that could be read a thousand times. Once a day, the second measures the speed and temperature of the ocean water. Already during the first few nights, they suddenly noticed a noticeable increase in ocean turbulence: it was ten to a hundred times greater than during the day.
It turned out that the reason behind this was the presence of large schools of anchovies near the boat. Therefore, the reproductive behavior of fish had a direct impact on local disturbance. It is still unknown to what extent biomixing could also have a wider impact, for example on ocean circulation, but the researchers will receive the IG Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.
literature Alienation of the word
If you repeat a word enough, at some point it loses its meaning. A study conducted by neuropsychologists published in the journal
memory In 2020, he uses the word alienation to describe the phenomenon of A jamais-fu Easier to understand. a jamais-fu It is the experience that something known to us suddenly appears as something unknown.
It can happen to you when you walk into a familiar place and suddenly feel like you are there for the first time. Or you may suddenly be surprised by the spelling of a word. You think, “Hey, that sounds weird. Is this spelling correct?”
james fu He is often mentioned in literature in the same way as his more famous counterparts deja vu. The researchers wondered whether Jamais-Vu could also be neurologically comparable to Deja-Vu.
Neuropsychologists asked students at the University of Leeds to write words one hundred and twenty times. They found that students who experienced déjà vu frequently in daily life were also more likely to experience a strange feeling when writing words repeatedly. However, they saw no connection to aging and dissociative experiences, which is seen in déjà vu.
A version of this article also appeared in the September 15, 2023 newspaper.