The Ig Nobels are a tradition — a strange, funny, and smart tradition.
Here’s a great description of this offbeat version of the Nobel prizes:
The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, then THINK. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.
Every September, in a gala ceremony in Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, 1100 splendidly eccentric spectators watch the new winners step forward to accept their Prizes. These are physically handed out by genuine (and genuinely bemused) Nobel Laureates. Thousands more, around the world, watch the live broadcast online.
There are prizes for academic disciplines like Psychology, Physics, and Economics. However, the award for Materials Science is the focus of this post. The winners this year wrote the paper Experimental replication shows knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work.
Here’s the abstract:
The ethnographic account of an Inuit man manufacturing a knife from his own frozen feces to butcher and disarticulate a dog has permeated both the academic literature and popular culture. To evaluate the validity of this claim, we tested the basis of that account via experimental archaeology. Our experiments assessed the functionality of knives made from human feces in controlled conditions that provided optimal conditions for success. However, they were not functional. While much research has shown foragers to be technologically resourceful, innovative, and savvy, we suggest that this ethnographic account should no longer be used to support that narrative.
To put it bluntly, the idea of making a knife out of poo is full of crap.
Check out this short video about the award.
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