Amid a flurry of paper airplanes, hosts adorned with little more than silver body paint, and the world's first and only opera about a centrifugal-force birthing machine, the 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded tonight (Sept. 12).
The Ig Nobels, which are awarded each year in the historic Sanders Theater on the Harvard University campus, honor scientific research that makes people laugh, then makes them think -- and then makes them laugh again. The science is real, and though it's been published in prestigious, peer-reviewed academic journals, it all has considerable popular appeal.
Who hasn't wondered, for example, about the effect that opera music might have on mice after they've had a heart transplant? (It helps, apparently.) And who among us, when seeing an amputated penis -- after it's been partially gnawed on by a duck -- hasn't asked, "Hey, is there a surgical technique that can help here?" (Answer: No, there isn't.) (The 10 Winners of the Ig Nobel Awards of 2013)
The Joint Prize in Biology and Astronomy Prize went to a team for their celestial discovery that lost dung beetles find their way home by looking at the Milky Way, that is, after they do a little jig on their perfectly rolled balls of poo. Physicists snagged an Ig Nobel for figuring out that walking on water is possible, if the water walker and the water are located on the moon.