The IgNobel 2022 awards among Mayan enemas, constipated scorpions and the importance of the "C factor"

The IgNobel 2022 awards among Mayan enemas, constipated scorpions and the importance of the C factor

The IgNobel 2022 awards among Mayan enemas

Here we go again: once again this year the time has come for the IgNobel 2022 awards in which "first you laugh and then you think", the moment in which science (and its protagonists) discard the good clothes and let themselves go for a while of self-irony. Awarded as every year by the Annals of Improbable Research a month earlier (approximately) than the Nobel Prizes, the IgNobels, as the name suggests, are the witty antithesis of the Nobels and reward the most bizarre and bizarre research in science - some recent, others fished out from distant years, all rigorously true. Little chauvinist note: after last year's Nobel Prize in physics to Giorgio Parisi, our country can be proud again, since a team of physicists from Catania has been awarded the IgNobel 2022 prize for economics for a study on luck and talent (we'll see that in a moment). Like every year, the ceremony was conducted by the performer Marc Abrahams, who took his leave with the customary greeting: "If you have not won the IgNobel this year, but especially if you have won it, I wish you luckier Next year" . So here are the unfortunates of 2022.

IgNobel Prize for Economics (Italy) Alessandro Pluchino, Alessio Emanuele Biondo and Andrea Rapisarda, "for mathematically explaining why they are often the luckiest people, and not the most talented ones , to be successful in life ".

Let's start with the economy, and with Italy. Andrea Rapisarda and colleagues, from the Physics Department at the University of Catania, were awarded the IgNobel prize for mathematically studying the role of luck - the infamous C factor - in determining people's success in life. Rapisarda himself tells “We started from the stereotype according to which it is not always the most talented people who are successful in life, but luck often plays a decisive role. And so we tried to develop a mathematical model, which in jargon is called the agent model, to quantitatively verify if and how success was all - or almost - a matter of luck ”. To do this, Rapisarda and colleagues simulated 40 years of the life of a group of individuals on the computer, modeled in such a way as to have a distribution of intelligence that follows the real distribution and endowed with a certain initial capital. In the simulations, these individuals could run into unfortunate events and lucky events, which made them halve or double their capital respectively according to a certain probability distribution linked to intelligence. The result? “We have discovered - continues Rapisarda - that actually the most successful people are the luckiest, and not necessarily those with the most talent. The results of our study are, among other things, compatible with the famous Pareto law, according to which 'many have little, few have much' ".

Among other things, this is the second time that the team di Rapisarda wins the award: it was already in 2012, when scientists received recognition for a study that showed how companies became more efficient by promoting random people, which "a bit like what happens in evolution - says Rapisarda - in which random gene mutations are 'rewarded' ". Chapeau.

IgNobel Award for Applied Cardiology (Czech Republic, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden, Aruba) Eliska Prochazkova, Elio Sjak-Shie, Friederike Behrens, Daniel Lindh and Mariska Kret, “for having sought ( and found) evidence that when two romantic partners first meet, and feel attracted to each other, their heartbeats synchronize. ”

It is said two hearts and a hut. Well, maybe it's worth talking about only one heart, since, as Eliska Prochazkova and colleagues recently demonstrated in a study published in Nature Human Behavior, the heartbeats of two romantic partners tend to synchronize already during the first date. . What's more: "We observed - the authors write in the abstract of the paper - that signals such as smiles, laughter, glances and winks are not significantly associated with attraction; on the contrary, the attraction is strongly associated with a synchrony in the heartbeat ". At the next appointment it is worth taking a heart rate monitor with you.

IgNobel Prize for Literature (Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia) Eric Martínez, Francis Mollica and Edward Gibson, "for analyzing what makes the legal documents that are so difficult to understand. ”

Did it happen to you to leaf through the loan agreement between you and the bank and not understand anything about it? Or get lost in the clauses of your insurance company? It is not your fault, as the winners of the IgNobel 2022 prize for literature have certified by analyzing a corpus made up of about 10 million words extracted from contracts and legal documents: these texts in fact contain a "surprisingly high" proportion of characteristics that are difficult to understand, including technical and slang terms, hidden clauses in the center of very long sentences, verbs in the passive, improper use of upper and lower case. The results of the study are relative to the English language, but there is an IgNobel to bet that they could be replicated in the same way also for Italian.

IgNobel Prize for Biology (Brazil, Colombia) Solimary García- Hernández and Glauco Machado, “for studying whether and how constipation has implications for scorpion mating prospects.”

This year's IgNobel Biology Prize is particularly interesting and answers an age-old question that all of us have asked ourselves at least once in our life, that is, if the problems of constipation of the scorpions (consequent to the loss of the tail) had repercussions in terms of their probability of mating. Well, the answer, as for all such complex questions, depends: “The loss of the tail - the scientists write - does not have an immediate effect on the locomotion of scorpions; but in the long term, the decrease in locomotor performance in males could undermine their search for a mate ”.

IgNobel Prize for Medicine (Poland) Marcin Jasiński, Martyna Maciejewska, Anna Brodziak, Michał Górka, Kamila Skwierawska, Wiesław Jędrzejczak, Agnieszka Tomaszewska, Grzegorz Basak and Emilian Snarski, "for showing that when patients they undergo some types of toxic chemotherapy suffer from fewer side effects they are given ice cream. "

The team of Emilian Snarski, from the hematology department at the Medical University of Warsaw, Poland, won the award IgNobel for medicine by virtue of a study published in Scientific Reports which investigates some of the side effects of chemotherapy, especially with respect to damage to the oral mucosa, which can significantly reduce the quality of life of patients. Since one of the strategies currently used to reduce these side effects is cryotherapy, the authors of the work decided to evaluate whether the administration of ice cream could have any effect; and the study - conducted on a small sample of 74 patients - showed that the intake of ice cream actually reduces the side effects on the oral mucosa, and that therefore "it could be adopted as an inexpensive and easy to implement method".

IgNobel Award for Engineering (Japan) Gen Matsuzaki, Kazuo Ohuchi, Masaru Uehara, Yoshiyuki Ueno and Goro Imura, "for trying to find the most efficient way to use your fingers when turning a knob".

That of Goro Imura and colleagues is a contribution to knowledge that is not a decisive factor to define. Back in 1999, scientists decided to evaluate the best strategy to use fingers when turning knobs, through a thoughtful experiment conducted on 32 volunteers aged between 19 and 20 years. The Japanese are a precise people, and the study was aimed, among other things, at understanding which was the shape of the knobs that would optimize comfort and functionality: said, done.

IgNobel Prize for the history of art (Netherlands, Guatemala, United States, Austria) Peter de Smet and Nicholas Hellmuth, “for their study 'A multidisciplinary approach to ritual enema scenes on ancient Mayan pottery'".

In 1986 the eminent Peter de Smet and Nicholas Hellmuth dealt with the interpretation of the enema scenes depicted on ancient Mayan pottery; only today, after 36 years of guilty and very heavy delay, the world finally realizes the capital importance of their work and rewards them with the IgNobel for the history of art. "There are various scenes of administering enemas on ancient Mayan pottery - the scientists wrote - which undoubtedly represent ancient rituals, and could indicate that the Mayans used the practice of the enema to inebriate themselves." The study does justice to the Maya, and denies (according to the authors) their fame as bigots: "This idea is contrary to the traditional point of view, according to which the Maya were a contemplative people and unwilling to indulge in ritual ecstasy ". History has finally been rewritten.

IgNobel Prize for Physics (China, UK, Turkey, USA) Frank Fish, Zhi-Ming Yuan, Minglu Chen, Laibing Jia, Chunyan Ji and Atilla Incecik, "for trying to understand how they do it ducklings swimming in formation ".

If Parisi won the Nobel Prize in physics by studying (among other things) the flight of birds, Fish and colleagues were awarded the IgNobel for the same discipline by analyzing the movements of the ducklings, apparently linked to issues of metabolism and energy saving of the animals: according to their findings, "the flow of water generated by the formation of ducklings reduces the resistance of the water to movement and allows each duckling to save energy ". The study dates back to 1983, but we imagine the conclusions are still valid.

IgNobel Peace Prize (China, Hungary, Canada, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, United States) Junhui Wu , Szabolcs Számadó, Pat Barclay, Bianca Beersma, Terence Dores Cruz, Sergio Lo Iacono, Annika Nieper, Kim Peters, Wojtek Przepiorka, Leo Tiokhin and Paul Van Lange, "for developing an algorithm that helps gossips decide when to tell the truth and when to lie ".

There is a bit of Italy in this award too: Sergio Lo Iacono, a researcher at the University of Essex, is in fact part of the winning team of the IgNobel 2022 for peace as the author of a study investigating whether, how and when it is appropriate to lie when gossiping - or, to put it more technically, when "sharing information about absent people". The work seems to suggest that "when there is a perfect match [between gossips] the gossip should always tell the truth; otherwise, in the event of a partial match, the gossip should choose on the basis of the cost / benefit ratio ". The possibility of not gossiping is not contemplated.

IgNobel Safety Award (Sweden) Magnus Gens, “for developing a moose dummy for use in crash tests”.

Not bad too the work of Magnus Gens, who noted that "Scandinavia has a very large population of moose" and that "the collision between cars and moose is a very serious problem, which sometimes has fatal consequences", has developed, for his degree thesis, a very accurate moose "dummy" to be used in car crash tests to improve safety and reduce accidents. Not only that: the engineer put his system to the test, crashing three cars into his puppet and comparing them with cars that had had real accidents. The results were extremely positive, so much so that Gens says he had proposals to develop reproductions of camels and horses: "Whether they are serious or not - he wrote - these requests indicate that there is worldwide interest in this type of test ".

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