Exploding colonoscopies, dead salmon and a shrinking Eiffel tower – yes, it’s the Ig Nobel awards!

The Ig Nobels return with more unusual answers to questions no one asked

Awarded every year by the Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Nobel prizes celebrate ‘research that makes people laugh and then think’.

This year’s chemistry prize went Johan Pettersson for solving a mystery in the Swedish town of Anderslov where the hair of blonde residents turned green. In this case, the first suspect was copper in the water but checking the supply revealed no problems. Pettersson realised that the copper was coming from the piping inside the house, not from the external supply. The hot water that people used for their showers stripped copper from the uncoated pipes, giving the unsuspecting residents an involuntary hair dye. His solution? Wash your hair in cold water, or move to a different house. I guess he’s not going to get a prize for sympathy…

The prize for neuroscience went to a team who measured brain activity in a dead salmon. Just as the tagline promises, it first makes you laugh but then makes you think. This could have quite serious implications for doctors measuring brain activity in coma patients.

Other prizes helped to solve long-standing questions such as ‘how do you stop your patients exploding during a colonoscopy?’, ‘why does coffee spill when you try to carry it?’ or ‘which way should I lean my head to make the Eiffel tower appear smaller?

Special mention must go to the US Government Accountability Office, the recipient of the literature prize, for issuing a report about reports about reports. And the conclusion of this meta-meta-report? Prepare a report about the report about reports about reports.

If that’s whetted your appetite for awards season, Chemistry World will be covering the more traditional Nobel prizes from 8th October.

Ian Le Guillou

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