Slime moulds can solve puzzles! This astonishing revelation is one of 10 pieces of real research honoured this year with Ig Nobel Prizes. The spoof alternatives to the rather more sober Nobel prizes were presented in a ceremony at Harvard University.
Other winners included studies that showed Coca Cola was an effective spermicide; and that fleas on dogs jump higher than fleas on cats!
Marc Abrahams, editor of science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which co-sponsors the awards, said: "The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology." All the research is real and published in often prestigious journals. Unlike the recipients of the more illustrious awards, Ig Nobel winners get no cash reward.
The full list of winners is (to see fuller articles on each, click on the white text):-
Nutrition: Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence for their study showing that food actually tastes better if it sounds crunchier.
Peace: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
Archaeology: Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino for demonstrating that armadillos can turn the contents of an archaeological dig upside down.
Biology: Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc for showing that fleas on dogs can jump higher than fleas on a cat.
Medicine: Dan Ariely for demonstrating that expensive fake medicine is more effective than cheap fake medicine.
Cognitive Science: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Akio Ishiguro and Agota Toth for demonstrating that slime moulds can solve puzzles.
Economics: Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber and Brent Jordan for discovering that the fertility cycle of a lap dancer affects her tip-earning potential.
Physics: Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith for proving that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
Chemistry: Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill and Deborah Anderson for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide (it was shared with C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and B.N. Chiang who showed the opposite).
Literature: David Sims for his passionately written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."