The 2021 IG nobel prizes include a decade's worth of research on cat purrs, analysis of miasmas inside movie theaters and an Italian study on pedestrians.
The 2021 IG nobel prizes were awarded at the 31st Award Ceremony. Established by the website Improbable Research, the prize is awarded annually - about a month before the Nobel Prizes - to the year's most bizarre research.
Divided into categories, the awards are about real scientific discoveries that have the power to "make people laugh, and only then think," as Marc Abrahams, who founded the curious award ceremony in 1991, is fond of recalling.
The IG nobel prize for biology goes to the purring of cats
The awards ceremony took place, as usual, at the Sanders Theatre, inside Harvard University, in the presence of the award-winning scientists.
The first award to be presented is for the biology category, which goes without much question to the research of Susanne Schötz, professor of phonetics at Lund University, "for analyzing variations in purring, chattering, gurgling, vocalizing, meowing and other modes of communication between cats and humans."
Schötz's study, which took part in the ceremony, consists of no less than five separate studies, published between 2011 and 2016, including "A comparative analysis of purring in four cats" (2011) and "A study of human perception of the intonation of meows in domestic cats" (2014).
Animal research is often among the most cited by Improbable Research: legendary was Justin Schmidt's study ranking the pain scale after various insect stings, in 2015.
Retaining on the subject of Earth sciences, the IG nobel prize for Ecology went to a research project split between Spain and Iran, which used genetic analysis to "identify different species of bacteria on chewing gum stuck on floors in different countries around the world."
Cinema air, obesity and curious nasal decongestants
The IG nobel prize for chemistry has gone to a research that is nothing short of magnificent: it is a study that sees the combined forces of German, British, New Zealand and European scientists, who have "analyzed the air inside cinemas to see if the odors produced by the audience can indicate the level of violence, sex, drug use present in the film being shown".
The research that secured the IG nobel prize for chemistry carries titles such as "Humans' Organic Volatile Compounds as a Tool for Classifying Films by Age" and "Extracting Data from Cinema: The Smell of Fear."
To Pavlo Blavatskyy, of Montpellier Business School, the IG nobel prize for economics, for the study revealing that "the obesity of a country's politicians could be a good indicator of the degree of corruption." The study, which looks specifically at Post-Soviet countries, was published in the journal "Economic of Transition and Institutional Change".
The IG nobel prize for medicine, which historically reserves the highest moments of the ceremony, was instead awarded this year to a research with the very explanatory title "Does sex improve nasal function?". All the authors of the study were present to receive the prize at Harvard University, and have indeed discovered that orgasm can be an excellent decongestant of the nasal passages.
The IG nobel prize for physics to an Italian research
But there is also a research largely Italian, in the list of IG nobel 2021: it is the study of Alessandro Corbetta, Roberto Benzi and Federico Toschi, assisted by colleagues from the U.S., Taiwan and Holland, on the physics of pedestrians.
The prize goes to Italian research for having "conducted experiments to understand why pedestrians do not continuously collide with each other".
The iG nobel for Kinetics curiously goes to the study of "how pedestrians sometimes collide with other pedestrians", also partly Italian: the research "Mutual anticipation may contribute to self-organization in crowds" also bears the signature of Italian Claudio Feliciani.