Unboiled eggs and mammal bladders: The Ig Nobel Prize goes to…
Who actually finds the Oscars or Emmys entertaining? They’re just events where the famous give the fellow famous awards for doing overpaid jobs. Awards shows might have a chance of keeping me awake if they had weird categories like Most Hilarious Plastic Surgery or Dumbest Thing Said to a TMZ Reporter.
Thankfully, we do have at least one awards ceremony that honors weirdest achievements. The annual Ig Nobels laud scientists and inventors who come up with the weirdest technological and scientific breakthroughs of the year. This year’s winners picked up their awards on Thursday at Harvard University.
The nine prizes cover scientific studies in fields such as chemistry, physics and economics, and the Ig Nobel committee handed out awards to scientists “for achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think,” according to the Improbable Research website, where you can see the full list of winners.
The top prize in chemistry went to a team of researchers from the University of California at Irvine and Flinders University in Australia who came up with a clever way of un-boiling an egg.
The process involves adding an organic compound called urea to egg whites that “chews” on their proteins. The whites are then placed in a vortex fluidic device that spins the egg whites and untangles the amino acids that give eggs their hard-boiled state. It sounds like a perfect way to ruin breakfast, but this process could lead, for example, to cancer antibodies being manufactured much more cheaply.
A team that established the 21-second rule for all mammals’ bladders won the Ig Nobel chemistry prize. A group of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology published a study in February of 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that timed the emptying of bladders across several species ranging in size from rats to elephants.
The study concluded that even though animals of different sizes have different-sized bladders, the time it takes to empty them are about the same. This, the research said, is due to the flow-enhancing properties of the urethra, the duct that directs urine out of the body and prevented “King of the Hill’s” Hank Hill from having any more children because his was too “narrow.”
The biology prize went to scientists from Universidad de Chile in Santiago and the University of Illinois at Chicago for their 2014 study that determined the gait of dinosaurs by putting “artificial tails” on chickens.
Birds like chickens are one of the closest evolutionary cousins of dinosaurs such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex that have yet to go extinct (and given our love for the McNugget, that doesn’t sound like an improbability). So the researchers raised a group of chickens with artificial tails to show how tails manipulated their limb posture and how “extinct bipedal dinosaurs” walked. The study also showed how “birds can potentially be used to gain important insights” into extinct dinosaurs species through further study.
The study also brought us the funniest video of a chicken I’ve ever seen, and that includes that “Cluckin’ Chicken” commercial parody from “Saturday Night Live.”