2015 Ig Nobel Prize winners: The year's most ridiculous discoveries in science, literature and economics

 
Sarah Spickernell
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There's something all large animals have in common... (Source: Getty)
Not every scientific discovery will save thousands of lives or transform the way we use technology – sometimes, they do little more than make us laugh.
In celebration of this, a series of Ig Nobel Prize awards are given away each year to those scientists who make the most absurd findings, and the 2015 ceremony has just been hosted at Harvard University.
Parodies of the real Nobel Prizes, the Ig prizes bring us a collection of the silliest excperiments from the last 12 months. Here are some of our favourites.

Physics Prize – how long does it take to wee?

Who: Patricia Yang and team at Georgia Tech
What: It doesn't matter if you're an elephant, a bear, a cow or a sheep – having a wee will take the same amount of time out of your day.
Yang and her team used high-speed video analysis to study urinating time among a range of species, and found that all creatures over three kilograms in weight spent around 21 seconds emptying their bladders.
They call this the “scaling law” for big animals, but note that the same pattern is not found among small animals.

Chemistry Prize – scientists crack how to unboil an egg

Boiling an egg tangles up its proteins, so it's very hard to reverse the process (Source: Getty)

Who: Scientists at the University of California and Flinders University in Australia
What: For the first time ever, an egg has been unboiled. The scientists achieved this by using mechanical energy from a vortex fluid device to reverse the egg proteins from the messy, tangled formation they adopt when boiled, back into their original structure.
It might sound like a trivial discovery, but this will actually have major consequences - it could save the global biotechnology industry £105bn.
The saved money won't actually come from unboiling eggs, but the discovery has shed light on a new, efficient way to untangle proteins in all kinds of science experiments.

Economics Prize - the cash solution to bribes

How do you stop corruption? With some crisp notes (Source: Getty)

Who: The Bangkok Metropolitan Police in Thailand
What: When you're faced with bribery, how do you deal with it? One way, which has turned out to be very effective, is to bribe the bribees not to be bribed.
This is the method the Bangkok Metropolitan Police used on its policemen – it paid them cash to refuse bribes. And it worked very well, apparently.

Management Prize - chief executives and natural disasters

Coming out of a natural disaster unscathed increases risk-taking (Source: Getty)

Who: Gennaro Bernile from Singapore Management University and team
What: It's well known that chief executives share a taste for risk-taking, but what gives them this attitude in the first place?
According to researchers, they have often experienced a natural disaster in their childhood, such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami or wildfire, but came out of it unscathed.

Biology Prize – chickens are surprisingly similar to dinosaurs

Who: Bruno Grossi and team at the University of Chile
What: A chicken may look pathetic next to a T-rex, but it turns out the harmless hen walks in a way that's remarkably similar to the deadly dinosaur.
By attaching a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken and watching it strut around, a group of scientists in Chile found it's gait was “consistent with” two-legged non-flying dinosaurs

Literature Prize – the universal “huh”

The sound universally used to express confusion (Source: Getty)

Who: Mark Dingemanse and team at the Max Planck Institute, in the Netherlands
What: It's not just English-speaking people who use the word “huh?” to express confusion – this simple, short sound is a fundamental part of speech around the world.
The researchers sampled 31 languages in total, and found that the word sounded almost exactly the same in all cases.
It's very rare that a single word arises multiple times in unconnected situations, and the researchers are still not sure why, or how, this happened.

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