The wackiest science celebrated on the 2023 Ig Nobel awards
Generally science will get a bit bit bizarre. Not each research delves into essentially the most urgent points ever—and thank goodness for that. In any other case we’d by no means find yourself with the hilarious, unusual, and sometimes insightful analysis on scorpion constipation, levitating frogs, dung beetle astronomy, and the psychology of cheese-haters.
Yearly, the Ig Nobel awards give a much-needed nod to the goofy facet of science. This yr’s winners included every part from measuring nostril hairs in cadavers, consuming with electrified chopsticks, and assessing the influence of anchovy intercourse on ocean water mixing. Listed here are three of PopSci’s favourite bizarre analysis subjects that bought a shoutout this week from the 2023 Ig Nobel awards.
For dinner: rocks and fossils
Why do scientists wish to lick rocks? You won’t know it is a time-tested custom, however College of Leicester geologist and paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz did a deep dive into slurping on stones, which scored him the Chemistry and Geology prize.
“The rock mendacity by the roadside didn’t appear like a lot of curiosity at first: a reasonably nondescript limestone, with little extra to indicate to informal commentary than just a few imprecise blotches,” Zalasiewicz wrote in a Paleontological Affiliation e-newsletter. “Anyway, outdated habits die laborious, so I picked it up, licked the floor and put it, and my hand lens, to my eye. The reminiscence of the shock, and the joys of minor discovery, remains to be recent. The little blotches turned out to be essentially the most excellent three-dimensionally preserved Nummulites foraminifera that one may hope to see, set in a marvelously revealing pure cement of sparitic calcite.”
Apparently he’s not the one researcher with a hankering to style a less-than-edible specimen: 18th century geologist Giovanni Arduino additionally licked his rocks. The added wetness can assist scientists spot mineral particles higher. Scrumptious.
Useless spiders as weird robots
Animal-inspired robots are in all places—however what about animals as robots? One 2022 Superior Science research requested the laborious, or at the least bizarre, query by turning a useless spider into an actuator on a robotic.
The scientists write of their paper that the strolling mechanism of spiders, which depends on hydraulic stress to increase their legs as a substitute of antagonistic muscle pairs, may end up in “a necrobotic gripper that naturally resides in its closed state and might be opened by making use of stress.” In checks of the spooky, and even controversial, robotic, they discovered it may grasp oddly formed objects and carry as much as 130 % of its personal mass. Utilizing spider corpses has just a few added bonuses, too:you could find them in nature and so they break down lots simpler than most robot-building supplies.
There’s even a video if you wish to see the spider-bot in motion.
The bathroom that is aware of all.
As a result of your excrement can inform you numerous about your well being, scientists in 2020 constructed a “good” rest room with alternative ways to autonomously analyze human waste. We’re speaking stress and movement sensors, standard-of-care colorimetric assay, laptop imaginative and prescient as a uroflowmeter for calculating stream charge and quantity of urine, and deep studying to categorise stool. The celebrated potty presents “efficiency that’s similar to the efficiency of skilled medical personnel,” based on the authors.
If this all sounds acquainted, it’s as a result of “good bathrooms” are having a second, together with one such throne that appeared at CES this yr. After all, there’s a draw back to an all-knowing rest room—the possibility that the gadget may indefinitely retailer “personal well being information, together with details about being pregnant and fertility,” as one privateness rights advocate identified in January. Nonetheless, one thing to ponder throughout your subsequent journey to the toilet.