- 1 year ago

Scale-free urination and speed bump diagnostics take home Ig Nobels

Every fall, the Swedish Academy of Sciences determines which researchers have produced work worthy of a Nobel Prize. Usually, my first warning that this time of the year is approaching is the announcement of the Ig Nobel Prizes, handed out in Boston "for achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think."

The Nobels must be coming soon, as the Igs were handed out last night in a traditionally lavish and mildly deranged ceremony. As is typical, almost all of the winning research teams had a representative present. One of the two exceptions sent a video acceptance; the only group that did not acknowledge its win was the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Force. We'll go through the awards below, starting with the ones that are also awarded science Nobels, and then moving into some of the more flexible categories before wrapping up with Economics and Literature.

Physics: The fluid mechanics of urination. The team that's getting the award here was drawn by what they call "a universal phenomenon that has received little attention" the physics of urination. To get a sense of how urination operates on different scales, the researchers hauled a video camera to Zoo Atlanta and filmed animals relieving themselves. "Our findings reveal that the urethra is a flow-enhancing device," they conclude, "enabling the urinary system to be scaled up by a factor of 3,600 in volume without compromising its function."

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