The Scicurious Brain

The Scicurious Brain

The Good, Bad, and Weird in Physiology and Neuroscience



And such prizes they are. As master of ceremonies and organizer of the IgNobels, Marc Abrahams, famously says at the end of each ceremony: “If you didn’t win an IgNobel prize this year – but especially if you did – better luck next year.” And while the winners this year went in for some truly silly studies, they papers they produced also made some important contributions. And so here we present this year’s winners for the papers that most make you laugh, and then make you think.

Take it away, press release:


Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan [THE NETHERLANDS] and Tulio Guadalupe [PERU, RUSSIA, and THE NETHERLANDS] for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"

REFERENCE: "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation," Anita Eerland, Tulio M.

Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science , vol. 22 no. 12, December 2011, pp. 1511-14.

“Leaning to the left makes it look smaller!” “That’s what she said”


The SKN Company [RUSSIA], for converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.


Ammo is a girl’s best friend.


Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada [JAPAN] for creating the SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person's speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.

REFERENCE: "SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback", Kazutaka Kurihara, Koji Tsukada, February 28, 2012.

We’ve been…JAMMED.


Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.

REFERENCE: "Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction," Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, 2009.

REFERENCE: "Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Multiple Comparisons Correction," Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results, vol. 1, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-5.

This study has all the personality of a dead fish. In a good way.


Johan Pettersson [SWEDEN and RWANDA]. for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden,

people's hair turned green.

He DYED HIS BEARD GREEN for the ceremony! This man is DEDICATED.


The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of

a report about the report about reports about reports.

REFERENCE: "Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies," US Government General

Accountability Office report GAO-12-480R, May 10, 2012.

(What? Sorry. I feel asleep after the first report on the report. Was there another report?)


Joseph Keller [USA], and Raymond Goldstein [USA and UK], Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball [UK], for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

REFERENCE: "Shape of a Ponytail and the Statistical Physics of Hair Fiber Bundles." Raymond E. Goldstein, Patrick B. Warren, and Robin C. Ball, Physical Review Letters, vol. 198, no. 7, 2012.

REFERENCE: "Ponytail Motion," Joseph B. Keller, SIAM [Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics] Journal of Applied Mathematics, vol. 70, no. 7, 2010, pp. 2667–72.

Let it also be noted that Joeseph Keller received TWO prizes today, the second is his long-awaited recognition on the physics of teapots that drip. As an ardent tea drinker, I thank this awesome guy.


Rouslan Krechetnikov [USA, RUSSIA, CANADA] and Hans Mayer [USA] for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

REFERENCE: "Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?" Hans C. Mayer and Rouslan Krechetnikov, Physical Review E, vol. 85, 2012.

Answering the question of scientists the world over, as to why you cannot freakin’ walk with your dang coffee.


Frans de Waal [The Netherlands and USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA] for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

REFERENCE: "Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception" Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 99–103, 2008.

(I would know that butt anywhere)


Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti [FRANCE] for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.

REFERENCE: "Colonic Gas Explosion During Therapeutic Colonoscopy with Electrocautery," Spiros D Ladas, George Karamanolis, Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 13, no. 40, October 2007, pp. 5295–8.

REFERENCE: "Argon Plasma Coagulation in the Treatment of Hemorrhagic Radiation Proctitis is Efficient But Requires a Perfect Colonic Cleansing to Be Safe," E. Ben-Soussan, M. Antonietti, G. Savoye, S. Herve, P. Ducrotté, and E. Lerebours, European Journal of

Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 16, no. 12, December 2004, pp 1315-8.

And over the next few days, Sci will be BLOGGING every single one of these fantastically special finds. So keep your eyes peeled for a full WEEK of weird science!! Stay Tuned!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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