Ig Nobel Prizes: GoatMan, Volkswagen, and the Personalities of Rocks

Every year, the Journal of Improbable Research issues its prizes for the craziest (published) scientific research: the Ig Nobel Prize. The ceremony took place a couple nights ago, and if you want to see what you missed, we’ve embedded the (long) video below. (Trigger warning: Actual Nobel laureates being goofy.)

The Stinker

It’s hard to pick the best of freaky research, and the committee did a stellar job this year. The trick is that they don’t give the prize away to quacks — you won’t ever get one with your perpetual motion machine, for instance. Nope, the Ig Nobels go to the kookiest science that could actually end up being useful. So we get projects like the effect of wearing polyester on the sexual activity of rodents in “reproduction” and a study on the perceived personalities of different rocks for marketing purposes in “economics”.

The headline photo is of Thomas [GoatMan] Thwaites, a post-humanist who decided to go Capra rather than cyborg. After getting goat prostheses built, he lived with a herd for a week up high in the Swiss alps. He shared the award with Charles [NoNickname] Foster, who lived as a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird for the book that he wrote.

The most ironic award, in chemistry, went to Volkswagen for their work on reducing diesel engine emissions. Zing!

If you like your science served silly, you should really go read the entire list, complete with paper citations.

[via the BBC]

29 thoughts on “Ig Nobel Prizes: GoatMan, Volkswagen, and the Personalities of Rocks

  1. Instead of perpetuating a “look-this-is-funny” mindset. How about encouraging an attitude of “wtf-are-these-morons-doing-with-taxpayer-money!!??” sense of outrage. And, yes the nobel prize committees lost all credibility when they awarded it to yassar arafat (a cold blooded murdering terrorist), and then again to that left leaning anti-American obama. We need a new threat of armed revolution to reclaim (this is for CONUS citizens only), America from the government bureaucrats who don’t give a crap about the people they’re supposed to be serving. “Outing” some of these un-answerable to The People faceless bureaucrats by physically going after them (a’la Tony Soprano style problem solving) would work wonders ! “fuggedah ’bout it”!.

    Here’s a collection of government waste: (and I don’t mean capital hill)
    1) $171,000 To Study How Monkeys Gamble
    2) $856,000 To Film Mountain Lions Running On Treadmills
    3) Synchronized Swimming For Sea Monkeys
    4) Swedish Massages For Bunnies
    5) Free Luxury Gym Memberships For Federal Bureaucrats
    6) $331,000 To Study Whether “Hangry” Spouses Are More Likely To Stab Voodoo Dolls

    And the list goes on, and on.
    There is no personal accountability. That’s why some ‘street justice’ against the administrators of approving this sort of insane waste of our tax dollars would be a good incentive for them to be more dilligent in how our money is spent.


    1. I don’t know that the monkey gambling experiment is a waste of money, look at how the research of Laurie Santos showed how the economic decisions of monkeys mirror our own, it shows much of or economy is run by our genes, and the implications are quite profound. Monkey gambling could have the same repercussions.

      1. It’s true – some research that looks foolish on the surface may have serious implications. I suspect the ” Synchronized Swimming For Sea Monkeys” for example, has something to do with swarm robotics.

    2. “…that left leaning anti-American obama.”
      I know I am grabbing a hot poker right not, but please explain. What is wrong with the political left, and how is Obama anti-American. Seeing how we are better off now than we were 8 years ago, If Obama was trying to destroy this country he is doing a poor job.

      Granted a large chunk of government bureaucrats seem to care more about their wallets than about their citizens, but more care about their parties than about making the country better. For example, the supreme court absence. the Republicans said that they would refuse any candidate Obama nominated, before they even saw who he selected. We do need a revolution, a revolution of free thought. Forget about blind party loyalty and start thinking for your self about what you agree on and who to vote for.

      1. Chris’s hormone levels are probably still surging due to his age. There is no “left”, just responsible adults making rational decisions while some people polarize every issue. Obama is and was centered and anyone who can’t recognize that is a loon.

      2. ” What is wrong with the political left”

        The fact that they are fundamentally self-serving authoritarians who keep a pretense of altruism for the naive?

        The left cause tends to become corrupted because it is operating on an idea of liberty that argues man is not truly free until he can collectively force everyone to behave according to what he deems as “good”. Rather than live and let live, it is the idea that you can bring everyone’s interests in-line with yours and vice versa by dialectically discovering the ultimate objectively and rationally right way to do things, that serves everyone in an optimal way, and then enforcing it. If someone disagrees they must be irrational or evil, or just too ignorant to understand their own good.

        In so doing, leftism really becomes the act of double-thinking that your subjective version of the “correct society” and the good that should be enforced is ultimately more valid than anyone else’s while simultaneously arguing for moral relativity and subjectivity of value to discard anyone else’s ideas. The dialectical underpinnings of leftism is that truth is found through discussion and compromize, and once everyone agrees what the truth is – or in practice when you and your homies agree with yourself what the truth is – it becomes uncompromizable dogma. It’s a thoroughly confused ideology, like an atheist beating people over the head with a bible without a hint of irony or self-awareness.

        In real mixed economies and politics leftism most often becomes just about crony capitalism and voting your special interest group more money. It cannot solve the issues it promises, such as poverty and unemployment, because as soon as they would it would rob the leftist career politician their purpose and their voters. Instead, it employs endless posturing and “raising awareness” while actually doing jack shit about anything.

        In that sense, for the left to even exist there must exist a perpetual strife between the underprivileged proletariat and the elitist bourgeoisie. If all else fails and things seem to be going more or less in a good direction, problems must be manufactured to keep the “good fight” going and the actual elite at the handle of power and privilege.

        1. Don’t read that as an apology of the right, whose version is simply that what has been is what should be (naturalistic fallacy), or that objective truth is found in God or written in the Constitution, or in Ayn Rand and the invisible hand of the market… etc. which is just as dogmatic but simply forgoes the mental gymnastics of pretending to listen to anyone else.

          Or the centrist who makes the fallacy of the middle ground. Other than that, the centrist is forced to fencehop on the left and right, and is thus forced to practice a whole other meta-level of doublethink to accomplish that and not realize that they’re just being opportunistic assholes.

    3. Hi Chris,
      Your list of Government wasted money is peanuts compared to the wastage carried out by the people. Think of all those delightfully gas guzzling cars on the highways with only one occupant, think of the amount of food thrown away, the throwaway manufactured goods etc etc. You may say ‘it’s the people’s choice, you mustn’t restrict their freedom. Quite right. But the voters, as a group, are happily wasteful – and so criticism of their government for being wasteful is a little high handed.

      1. US government expenditure is 42% of the GDP.

        If you want to throw stones, throw stones at the government as well for pointless energy-consuming bureaucracy and funding make-work that serves nobody, that is in great part responsible for all that waste of manufactured goods and services.

        Blame government regulations that demand impractically high fuel economy out of passenger vehicles while exempting trucks from the same, which increased the price of small economy cars and created the SUV. Blame the government for subsidizing corn production for the benefit of the corporate farmers, and then turning the surplus corn into ethanol at nearly 1:1 cost in fossil fuels, and then forcing it into gasoline to create a demand for the ethanol – where it creates acetaldehyde through incomplete combustion, which contributes to urban pollution and causes lung cancer, which causes health care costs to rise.

        Etc. etc.

  2. It would be very noble of them to put time hacks in the video notes so we can skip most of the unfunny 1 hour 39 minutes of ceremony and jump to an award of the viewer’s choice, yet they never do. Perhaps they deserve their own award for not doing so?

  3. The sheer torture of listening on NPR’s Science Friday once a year in early winter. No more. Please stop. Please stop. Please stop… A prof at Purdue on starting a barbecue with LOX. He melted a few county park cast iron grilles.

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