It’s fall, which means different things to different people. One event that I enjoy this time of year is the announcement of the Nobel prizes. OK, I’m lying (I just thought this might make me sound more cerebral than I actually am). What I really look forward to are the Ig Nobel prizes.

For those of you who are not science geeks, the Ig Nobel prizes are organized by the Annals of Improbable Research to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

Veterinary medicine is a science (at least in part), and for better or worse, animal related topics always seem to take center stage at the Ig Nobel ceremonies. Some of this year’s winners include:

The Physiology Prize to Anna Wilkinson (of the U.K.), Natalie Sebanz (of the Netherlands, Hungary, and Austria), Isabella Mandl (of Austria), and Ludwig Huber (of Austria) for their study, "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise."

Reference: "No Evidence Of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise Geochelone carbonaria," Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl, Ludwig Huber, Current Zoology, vol. 57, no. 4, 2011. pp. 477-84.


The Biology Prize to Darryl Gwynne (of Canada and Australia and the U.K. and U.S.A.) and David Rentz (of Australia and the U.S.A.) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. They also deserve an honor for the best article title, I think (see below).

References: "Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera)," D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, no. 1, 1983, pp. 79-80; and "Beetles on the Bottle," D.T. Gwynne and D.C.F. Rentz, Antenna: Proceedings (A) of the Royal Entomological Society


And while these next two don’t directly address animal-related topics, they certainly might spur additional research in the veterinary field (one can only hope).

The Medicine Prize to MirjamTuk (of the Netherlands and U.K.), Debra Trampe (of  the Netherlands), and Luk Warlop (of Belgium) - and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the U.S.A.), and Robert Pietrzak, David Darby and Paul Maruff (of Australia) for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

References: "Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains," Mirjam A. Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop, Psychological Science, vol. 22, no. 5, May 2011, pp. 627-633; and "The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults," Matthew S. Lewis, Peter J. Snyder, Robert H. Pietrzak, David Darby, Robert A. Feldman, Paul

The Physics Prize to Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of France), and Herman Kingma (of the Netherlands), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.


References: "Dizziness in Discus Throwers is Related to Motion Sickness Generated While Spinning," Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma, Acta Oto-laryngologica, vol. 120, no. 3, March 2000, pp. 390–5.

And finally, here’s one that I definitely need to take a look at sometime, when I don’t have anything better to do.

The Literature Prize to John Perry of Stanford University, U.S.A., for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.


References: "How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done," John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title "Structured Procrastination."

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Ig Nobel logo / via Improbable Research