2017 Ig Nobels: Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?

Sept. 28, 2017

Once again improbable research answers the tough questions. The 2017 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded September 14 at the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. The winners physically received their prizes, and a handshake, from genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel laureates: Eric Maskin (economics, 2007); Roy Glauber (physics, 2005); and Oliver Hart (economics, 2016).

For folks lucky enough to attend the awards, they were treated to a pre-ceremony concert by The Boston Typewriter Orchestra. They also got a viewing of the mini-opera "The Incompetence Opera" — a musical encounter with the Peter Principle and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. If you were unlucky, like me, and didn’t see it live, you can check out the video of the entire ceremony below.

A few of the top honors:
Physics Prize (France, Singapore, USA) — Marc-Antoine Fardin, for using fluid dynamics to probe the question "Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?"
Reference: "On the Rheology of Cats," Marc-Antoine Fardin, Rheology Bulletin, vol. 83, 2, July 2014, pp. 16-17 and 30.

Peace Prize (Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, USA) — Milo Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli, for demonstrating that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring. Reference: "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial," Milo A. Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz and Otto Braendli, BMJ, vol. 332 December 2006.

Fluid Dynamics Prize (South Korea, USA) — Jiwon Han, for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks backwards while carrying a cup of coffee. Reference: "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," Jiwon Han, Achievements in the Life Sciences, vol. 10, no. 1, 2016, pp. 87-101.

And if this research isn’t gift enough, you can add a few books to your holiday wish list. This Is Improbable Too and The Ig Nobel Cookbook (volume 1).

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s Senior Digital Editor. She has a cookbook collection and will be adding The Ig Nobel Cookbook to it soon. Do you have a signature recipe you are proud of? Email it to her at [email protected].

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