Cheers: to the strange, strange world of science. The 2017 Ig Nobel prizes — for peculiar scientific endeavours — were announced last week. (You can see them here: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/ ) Among with winners? A fluid dynamics experiment testing the premise “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid,” a medical examination of “Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears,” and the intriguing role-reversal biology price for “Female Penis, Male Vagina and Their Correlated Evolution in a Cave Insect.” The Economics prize that went to “Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer, for their experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person’s willingness to gamble.” Grand.
Cheers: to more science. Even last year’s awards were fantastic. Who could resist reading a study from 2016 described by the judges like this: “The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.” Or another 2016 Ig Nobel was awarded jointly to: “Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.” OK, we’re done now. Promise. Until next year.
Jeers: to the end of days. There is a 140-ton monster in the London sewers. A fatberg — a massive blob of fat, disposable wipes, diapers and other flushed things. “It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove,” Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, told the New York Times. “It’s basically like trying to break up concrete.” Not only that, the Times reported, but there are those who want to save part of the blob for posterity: “The Museum of London said on Wednesday that it hoped to acquire a cross-section of the blob for its collection. ‘It is important for the Museum of London to display genuine curiosities from past and present,’ the director of the museum, Sharon Ament, said in a news release.” Ick. Just ick.