2020 Ig Nobel Prizes Celebrate the Quirkiest and Funniest Science Experiments

These awards honor "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."
Loukia Papadopoulos

We have all heard of the Nobel Prizes but have you heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes? These awards are a friendly parody of the Nobel Prizes that honor "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."


What might some of these quirky and entertaining achievements be? Wait no longer to find out as we share some of the 2020 candidates right here. If you want to watch them yourself check out the video embedded at the end of our article.

A Chinese alligator in heliox

Section: Acoustics

Award given to: "Stephan Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and Tecumseh Fitch, for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air."

What the experiment was about: Alligators are known for bellowing in order to attract mates. These researchers wanted to see whether the animal demonstrated vocal-tract resonances used by animals as an indicator of body size. The researchers found that it did indeed demonstrate such a trait while at the same time producing many quirky sounds.

An examination of eyebrows for narcissism traits

Section: Psychology

Award given to: "Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule, for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows."

What the experiment was about: The researchers in this team conducted a study where they had 39 undergraduates pose for photographs with neutral expressions and pass a narcissism test. They then had other participants evaluate those photographs for signs of narcissism. They found that people attributed narcissistic traits to people who had prominent well-groomed eyebrows.

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Vibrating earthworms

Section: Physics

Award given to: "Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky, for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency."

What the experiment was about: If you vibrate a pool of water, will you automatically create Faraday waves. These researchers argued that since some living organisms, like earthworms, are made mostly of water, they should experience these same waves when vibrated. So, you guessed it: they vibrated earthworms. Using laser vibrometry, they were indeed able to detect Faraday vibrations in the living earthworms.

The kissing experiment

Section: Economics

Award given to: "Christopher Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries' national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing."

What the experiment was about: The researchers recruited 3,109 participants from around the world (13 countries and six continents) for an online study that sought to determine if economics played a role in kissing. They found that income inequality was positively related to kissing frequency. "Individuals kiss their partner more in countries where resource competition is likely to be more intense, which may play an important role in maintaining long-term stable pair bonds in certain types of harsh environments," the researchers concluded.

These are but a few of the fun honorees but there are plenty more. If we piqued your curiosity make sure to watch the video below to see all of them. If they don't make you laugh they will at least make you think.


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