Int'l team wins Ig Nobel for showing helium raises alligators' pitch

The Ig Nobel awards recognise the more bizarre and funny bits of scientific research

The Ig Nobel awards recognise the more bizarre and funny bits of scientific research

A team of scientists snapped up an worldwide prize on Thursday for a study that involved getting an alligator to inhale helium.

According to its website, the Ig Nobel Prize honour achievements that make people laugh, then think. They said this allowed them to confirm that crocodilians have resonances in the vocal tract, just like mammals and birds.

By giving the alligator the helium mixed with oxygen, they could analyse the different sound frequency of its bellows.

The Ig Nobel Prize is annually announced at Harvard University, but this year's ceremony was held online on September 17 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ten of the gongs were given out on Thursday by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which created the accolades 30 years ago to draw attention to research which, while tackling genuine real-world problems, has a quirky aspect. The team of researchers put an alligator in a helium-filled box and made it shout.

The winners are usually celebrated in a ceremony held at Harvard University. This year's ceremony, which took place on Thursday, was webcast as a result of the pandemic.

Nishimura only learned he won when he received an e-mail marked emergency matter from another member of the prize-winning team, Stephan Reber, a doctoral researcher at Lund University in Sweden.

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Peace: Awarded to unnamed government officials from India and Pakistan who "surreptitiously [rung] each other's doorbells in the middle of the night, and then [ran] away before anyone had a chance to answer the door". One of them discovered that their eyebrows could identify narcissists.

An worldwide team received the Economics award after experimenting with quantifying the relationship between different countries' national income inequality and the mouth-to-mouth kissing's average amount.

But there was an important message behind the study that one the citation for "materials science".

Medical Education - Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, "for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can".

This year's prize in entomology went to an investigation of why so many insect researchers are themselves fearful of spiders.

The medicine award was given to a Dutch-Belgian team that diagnosed a long-unrecognized medical condition called "Misophonia", the distress at hearing other people's chewing sounds while eating. The management prize went to five Chinese assassins who subcontracted the hit to each other but failed to get the job done.

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