Here are the winners of the 2022 Ig Nobel Prizes

Enlarge / The Ig Nobel Prizes honor “achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think.”

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Would you give yourself an alcohol enema for science? Testing the running speed of constipated scorpions in the lab? Build your own moose crash test dummy? Or perhaps you would like to address the thorny question of why legal documents are so relentlessly incomprehensible. These research efforts and other unusual ones were honored tonight in a virtual ceremony to announce the 2022 winners of the annual Ig Nobel Prizes. Yes, it’s that time of year again, where the serious and the silly converge – for science. You can watch the live broadcast of the awards ceremony here.

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Created in 1991, the Ig Nobels are a good-natured parody Nobel prizes; they honor “achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think”. The awards ceremony, without excuse, usually includes miniature operas, scientific demonstrations and 24/7 lectures, during which the experts must explain their work twice: once every 24 seconds and the second in just seven words. Acceptance speeches are limited to 60 seconds. And as the motto suggests, honored research may seem ridiculous at first glance, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of scientific merit.

Spectators can tune in for the usual 24/7 lectures, as well as the premiere of a mini-opera, The Know-it-all Club, in which each member “clearly expresses their opinion that there is only one person in the Know-It-All Club who knows anything”, in keeping with the evening’s knowledge theme. Winners will also give free public talks in the weeks following the ceremony, which will be posted on the Improbable Research website.

Here are the winners of the Ig Nobel Prizes 2022.

Art History Prize

Quote: ‘Peter de Smet and Nicholas Hellmuth, for their study’A multidisciplinary approach to ritual washing scenes on ancient Mayan pottery.’”

Honestly, I could write an entire article on this fascinating 1986 paper, adapted from de Smet’s doctoral thesis. The study focuses on polychrome pottery from the late Classic Maya period (600-900 CE), which frequently depicts palace scenes, ball games, hunting parties, and dances associated with human sacrifice. (via Decapitation). But in 1977, researchers discovered a Mayan pot depicting the administration of an enema – and subsequently several others as well.

Apparently the Maya were known to administer medicinal enemas, but pottery scenes suggested that they may also have taken intoxicating enemas in a ritual setting. De Smet and Hellmuth analyzed the iconography of several pottery pieces depicting enemas, as well as the linguistic glyphs appearing in these scenes. They also compiled a list of possible “ethnopharmacological” substances that the Maya might have ingested.

In the age-old tradition of scientific self-experimentation, de Smet (a “non-inhaler smoker” and “regular user of coffee and beer”) tested the efficacy of a few suspected substances by administering enemas to himself. He drank an oral alcoholic concoction for comparison before separately administering a clyster. Both concoctions had an alcohol content of around 5% “because a clyster with an alcohol content of 20% is quite irritating to rectal tissue”, so a large portion of the concoction had to be consumed. Intoxication levels were measured with a breathalyzer. “The results certainly support the theoretical suggestion that alcohol is well absorbed by an enema,” the authors concluded.

De Smet wisely refused to self-administer a tobacco enema, given evidence of toxic side effects. Nor has he personally tested psilocybin mushrooms, fly agaric, water lily (a possible hallucinogen), tsitse (Erythina alkaloids), or Toh-ku – all candidates less likely to be used in rituals depicted on pottery. He also chose to skip the toad poison (the Bufo bufotenine alkaloid). Instead, he administered an enema of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is closely related, finding “no discernible effect.” It’s an N of 1, however, with a rather low dose. The authors recommended “further research” to expand the sample size and dose range, but we didn’t dig deep to find out if other intrepid researchers have followed de Smet down the self-administered enema path. .

Here are the winners of the 2022 Ig Nobel Prizes