Science is not only serious, but also entertaining and sometimes even funny. Under the motto “laugh and think”, a magazine reports on the most bizarre and funny investigations, without losing its rigor. The IG Nobels reward these forays of science into the seemingly absurd. We have some examples.
Science is an extremely serious activity. Because of its extreme rigor, scientists often have to give bad news about pandemics, climate change, species extinction, pollution, etc., warning of the sacrifices that are coming.
Of course we don’t like it. Among scientists there are many happy people who want to enjoy themselves. A good way to approach the funniest side of research is to read “Annals of Improbable Research”, a magazine that, under the motto “laugh and think”, collects the most bizarre research, as long as it is funny, and of course without lose even an ounce of its rigor.
There is also a prize for this type of research. These are the “IG Nobel” prizes, a humorous parody of the Nobel Prizes, which, delivered by winners of the real Nobel Prize, reward the most eccentric investigations that in turn have the greatest grace.
For example, the “IG Nobel Prize for Transport & rdquor; of 2021 went to Dr. Robin Radcliﬀe and his collaborators, a group of African veterinarians who studied the stress suffered by black rhinos while being airlifted hanging by their legs under a powerful helicopter.
The investigation is shocking. Didn’t these vets have anything better to do than transport rhinos upside down with a helicopter? To more than one it could even seem like a flagrant case of animal abuse of an unnecessary cruelty to top it off with animals on the verge of extinction. Thinking badly it seems that this investigation only serves to make a series of heartless laugh. But, as shocking as it may seem to us, the reality is that it is a brilliant piece of work that could save rhinos from extinction.
Currently the habitat of rhinos is highly fragmented. They survive in small groups isolated from each other. A few individuals inhabit small fragments of wild land, isolated from other groups by barriers that are impassable for them, such as highways, barbed wire that protect agricultural land, cities, etc.
In these small groups, inbreeding increases dangerously to the point that they could lead to extinction. The solution is to periodically transport rhinos from the group where they were born to another group where they breed with individuals other than their relatives. But transporting a wild animal of 1,500 kilos is not so easy. They suffer stress and many die, and it is fatal to carry them lying on their sides on a custom stretcher, as they often drown. Surprisingly, the best thing is to take them by helicopter hanging from their legs.
Although it may surprise us at first, this is essential research for the conservation of an emblematic species.
Talking about these plump animals leads us to the investigation of the doctor Blavatskyy, winner of the “IG Nobel” of Economy, who dedicated himself to investigating the fatness of politicians in different countries. The work showed that there are great differences between nations. In some their politicians are significantly fatter than in others. There are also big differences between the various parties.
Dr. Blavatskyy spent a lot of effort and time getting weights and heights from a long series of politicians from different nations and parties. But did he waste his time with this investigation? Is it relevant to measure how meaty our politicians are? And if this is so, is it better for politicians to be fat or skinny?
Contrary to what it may seem at first glance, the study by Blavatskyy and others in the same field are extremely useful and provide clues as to who we should never vote for. There is a highly significant correlation between fatness and corruption. The countries that have the fattest politicians are also the most corrupt countries. Likewise, political parties with more fat people among their leaders are more corrupt than those led by skinny people.
Of course, a plump politician can be the most upright of people while the skinniest of them can break corruption records. But every kilo of excess weight that a politician has considerably increases the probability that he will reach into the box.
islands of gum
Surprisingly that does not happen in other professions. But the combination of fatness and dedication to politics seems especially dangerous for integrity. The key is in the mathematics of large numbers.
The IG Nobel Prize in Ecology has also been received by Dr. leila satari and collaborators for their brilliant study of a peculiar island ecosystem. Ever since Charles Darwin found evidence of evolution in the Galapagos Islands, island biology has contributed an enormous amount of knowledge to population biology.
The islands studied by Dra Satari’s group are very peculiar: they are chewed gum spit out on the sidewalks. Each island of gum, totally isolated from others by a sea of cement and tiles, maintains its particular set of bacteria. They are extremely different and really are extraordinary ecosystems.
Of course not all research that makes you laugh and think is awarded an IG Nobel Prize. The vast majority do not have that privilege, although some are very good.
For example, Drs. marks Y Moylan investigated which are the most efficient patterns for parking cars on the streets. Against all odds, given that cars are of different sizes, the worst possible strategy is the one followed in our cities: mark with paint on the ground the space where a car has to park and that all these spaces are the same size.
Through a sophisticated mathematical model, these researchers show that there are 4 strategies that make much better use of space. For example, depending on the size of the car, it should be parked more or less near the corners. But even if they didn’t paint stripes and everyone parked as they pleased, this strategy would be significantly better than painting stripes on the ground delimiting equal spaces.
This research shows that improving the erroneous parking pattern in our cities could increase the number of parking spaces in our cities by up to 15% without spending a dime.
homemade radiation detector
Recently Drs. Anna Mrozik And p. Bilski They explain that, if a nuclear catastrophe were unleashed, it is very unlikely that we would have dosimeters on hand that would allow us to measure the dose of radiation to which we would be exposed. It occurred to them to investigate several commonly used personal objects that could be used as emergency dosimeters.
Among them, ibuprofen and paracetamol pills stand out, which are perfect as radiation sensors. When exposed to ionizing radiation they show a strong luminescence signal, the intensity of which increases linearly with the absorbed radiation dose.
In other words, put an ibuprofen or acetaminophen pill in your pocket, and go about your business. After some time go to a completely dark room. If after a while the pill glows dimly, bad business. You will have been subjected to a dangerous dose of radiation. But if it glows much worse. He will be contemplating his death sentence in the next few days.
Often a lot of research is amazing. In a job this year, Levi Garcia-Romero and collaborators explain that “Cruising”, a practice of social interaction consisting of anonymous sexual encounters in open public spaces: often occur in areas of coastal dunes and beaches.
Unfortunately, this activity causes a serious environmental impact on the vegetation of some protected coastal dune systems, especially on 8 plant species, three of which are endemic.
We would like to thank the author of this short article for this awesome material
Science also deals with the apparently absurd and funny