We at Commonplace Fun Facts are big fans of the Ig Nobel Prize and its mission to “first make people laugh, then make them think.” The list of 2019 laureates touched on many different facets of human knowledge, including the geometric dimensions of wombat dung, the differences between living and dead magnetized critters, and proving before disproving the happiness quotient of chomping on writing utensils.
Consider the following finalists. Where possible, links to the actual studies are included for your further edification.
The Health Benefits Eating Italian Pizza in Italy
Silvano Gallus, received the Prize for researching whether pizza has health benefits, protecting against cancer and other ailments, provided that the pizza is made and eaten in Italy. None of that knock-off, generic non-Italian pizza for the truly health-conscious!
Good Dog: Using an Animal Training Clicker to Teach Orthopedic Surgeons
Karen Pryor and Theresa McKeon earned honors for incorporating a simple clicker, commonly used to teach dogs how to fetch, and instead to teach doctors how to perform orthopedic surgery. Who knew that years of expensive medical school could be replaced with some simple positive reinforcement? Imagine what doctors could do they were trained by the “spray bottle in the face” method.
Discovering Magnetic Differences Between Living and Dead Cockroaches
Do dead cockroaches behave differently than their living counterparts? They do when they are magnetized, anyway. Ling-Jun Kong, Herbert Crepaz, Agnieszka Górecka, Aleksandra Urbanek, Rainer Dumke, and Tomasz Paterek conducted this groundbreaking research. We assume the different behavior involved something more scientifically significant than the fact that one category is able to move around and do things, while the other is primarily occupied with the task of decomposing.
Getting to the Crux of the Temperatures of French Crotches
Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa conducted an exhaustive study involving French postal workers and bus drivers for the purpose of determining whether there is a difference in temperature between the right and left sides of the scrotum. Despite reading the results of the study, we are still a bit unclear about why anyone particularly cared.
Spit Production: 5-Year-Olds Are Good For Something
Apparently unsatisfied with this fun fact about how much saliva the average person produces in a lifetime, Shigeru Watanabe, Mineko Ohnishi, Kaori Imai, Eiji Kawano, and Seiji Igarashi, wanted to dig deeper. They conducted this study to determine the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child. Spoiler alert: the answer is 500 ml.
An Invention That Will Really Change Things
Iman Farahbakhsh came up with something that will really save time for parents of infants. He invented an infant washer and diaper-changing machine. Hopefully, it will be more successful than the Baby Cage.
Which Country’s Money Will Really Make You Filthy Rich — and Very Sick?
Habip Gedik, Timothy A. Voss, and Andreas Voss tested the currency of different nations, trying to determine which one is most likely to spread dangerous bacteria. The results of the study show that Romania’s Leu is most conducive to spreading Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Vancomycin- Resistant Enterococci (VRE).
Pens Make You Happy. Um… Actually, Forget That
Fritz Strack concluded that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes a person smile, and that results in the person being happier. He gets the Ig Nobel Prize for subsequently discovering that the first findings were hokum. In the words of Strack, “First, the original finding was the result of fraud or cheating. Second, the original finding was not ‘real,’ not a ‘true’ effect. Third, the original effect was weak and fragile, not robust enough to show up under changing conditions.”
(Wombat Dung)3 — See What We Did There?
If you learn nothing else today, you can at least cling to this vital bit of information: wombat poop is cube-shaped. If that knowledge is not enough to make you feel better equipped to face the challenges this day presents, you might want to delve a bit deeper and find out why it is thus shaped. Patricia Yang, Alexander Lee, Miles Chan, Alynn Martin, Ashley Edwards, Scott Carver, and David Hu did exactly this, and published their findings, showing how and why wombats drop cube-shaped feces. Not content to stop there, they also boast that this information will offer “insight into new manufacturing techniques for non-axisymmetric structures using soft tissues.”
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