Scholars Who Studied Liars, Put Pants On Rats Win Ig Nobels | NBC Chicago
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Scholars Who Studied Liars, Put Pants On Rats Win Ig Nobels

Winners receive $10 trillion cash prizes — in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money



    Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    Harvard University students walk through the campus on February 21, 2006. Harvard hosts the Ig Nobels, a spoof on the Nobel Prizes.

    A Swede who wrote a trilogy about collecting bugs, an Egyptian doctor who put pants on rats to study their sex lives and a British researcher who lived like an animal for months have been named winners of the Ig Nobels, the annual spoof awards for quirky scientific achievement.

    The winners were honored — or perhaps dishonored — Thursday in a zany ceremony at Harvard University. 

    The 26th annual event featured a paper airplane air raid and a tic-tac-toe contest with a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist and four real Nobel laureates.

    Winners receive $10 trillion cash prizes — in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money. 

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    Hundreds of people took to the streets in Barrington, Rhode Island this weekend to protest an op-ed written in the local newspaper that many found offensive. The letter, written by Alan Sorrentino, critiques older women who wear yoga pants in public, saying the clothing does not compliment a woman over 20 years-old. "This is way more than yoga pants. It is women fed up with the policing of our wardrobes," said parade organizer, Jamie Burke. Sorrentino claims that his op-ed was just a joke but many are calling his comments sexist. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016)

    This year's Ig Nobels, sponsored by the science humor magazine "Annals of Improbable Research," included research by Fredrik Sjoberg, who published three volumes about collecting hoverflies on the sparsely populated Swedish island where he lives.

    It sounds downright dull, but Sjoberg's books are a hit in his homeland, and the first volume's English translation, "The Fly Trap," has earned rave reviews.

    "I had written books for 15 years (read by no one) when I finally understood it's a good thing to write about something you really know, no matter what that might be," Sjoberg said via email, describing the award as the pinnacle of his career.

    "The Ig Nobel Prize beats everything," he said. "At last I hope to become a rock star. Leather pants, dark sunglasses, groupies. All that." 

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    Ahmed Shafik decided rats needed pants.

    He dressed his rodents in polyester, cotton, wool and polyester-cotton blend pants to determine how different textiles effects sex drive. found that rats that wore polyester or polyester blend pants displayed less sexual activity, perhaps because of the electrostatic charges created by polyester. He suggested that the results could be applied to humans.

    Sadly the former professor at Cairo University in Egypt, did not live to receive his Ig Nobel. He died in 2007.

    The study did not explain how he measured a rat's waist and inseam.

    Charles Foster, a fellow at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, won for literally living like an animal. He spent months mimicking a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer and a bird in an attempt to see the world through their eyes, then wrote a book, "Being a Beast," about his experiences.

    He lived as a badger in a hole in a Welsh hillside; rummaged like a fox through trash cans in London's East End looking for scraps of chicken tikka masala and pepperoni pizza; and was tracked by bloodhounds through the Scottish countryside to learn what it's like to be a deer.

    It wasn't much fun.

    "I was hunted down quite quickly," he said.

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    Andreas Sprenger was part of a team at the University of Luebeck in Germany that found that if you have an itch on one arm, you can relieve it by looking in a mirror and scratching the opposite arm. Sound silly? But imagine, Sprenger said via email, if you have a skin condition with an intolerable itch, you can scratch the other arm to relieve it without rubbing the affected arm raw. 

    Gordon Logan, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, and colleagues from Canada and Europe won for their research on lying. Their study of more than 1,000 people who are ages 6 to 77 — "From junior to senior Pinocchio: A cross-sectional lifespan investigation of deception" — found that young adults are the best liars.

    How do the scientists know their subjects weren't lying to them?

    "We don't," Logan said.

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    London Zoo is welcoming the first ever baby aye-aye lemur just in time for Halloween.

    The creepy-looking creature was actually born on July 1 but has only emerged from its secluded nesting box for the first time this week.

    The species of lemur (formally known as Daubentonia madagascariensis) are unique in that they have an unusually large middle finger and are associated with doom in their native Madagascar. Natives there believe that if an aye-aye points its long finger at you, death is not far away.

    Zookeepers expressed their excitement at the birth although they only saw the baby recently as it has been hiding in its nest box.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 24, 2016)