As the person who is responsible for covering the annual Nobel Prizes in the sciences, it’s always good to get a warning that they’re about to be awarded. For me, that warning is provided by the Annals of Improbable Research, which has spent the last 27 years hosting its First-Annual Ig Nobel Prizes.
Complete with a ceremony that features a mini-opera and a Nobel Prize winner who’s tasked with sweeping paper airplanes off the stage, the awarding is an act of inspired lunacy that’s matched only by the prize-winning research itself. As is typical, this year’s winners are a mix of scientists being goofy, taking scientific methods to unconventional problems, and real scientific questions that have… unconventional consequences. Without further ado, let’s get to them.
Obstetrics: Whose idea was this anyway? Presumably, one of the three Spanish researchers being honored came up with the question that nobody else was asking: would a fetus enjoy music more if it was played in the nearby vagina? To find out, the team played music against the mother’s abdomen and from a speaker inserted in her vagina and compared those to vibrations in the vagina. Though there was no discussion of the mother’s facial expression during the vibrations, the fetus only responded to intravaginal music, though it had to be older and better developed to do so. Naturally, the team patented an intravaginal speaker and has a product on the market.
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