Man lives as a goat and wins Ig Nobel prize

This year’s alternative science prizes – the Ig Nobels – have seen one prize go to a man who lived in the Alps as a goat for three days. The other awards are just as bizarre.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are parodies of the Nobel Prizes given out each autumn for 10 unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The awards have been given out by a panel of scientists since 1991, via the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. The name of the award is a variation on =the words ignoble and the Nobel Prize.

This year the 2016 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on September 22, 2016 at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The ceremony was broadcast live over the Internet. The judging panel included Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman. Each winner was given a $10 trillion Zimbabwean bill (worth about 40 cents in US money).

This year a prize was awarded to a scientist who wanted to see what it was like to live as a goat for three days. For this, Tom Thwaites had special prostheses made so he could walk like the animal and he spent his time wandering around on the Alps. Speaking with the BBC about the experience, Thwaites said: “I was just sort of walking around, you know chewing grass, and just looked up and then suddenly realized that everyone else had stopped chewing and there was this tension which I hadn’t kind of noticed before and then one or two of the goats started tossing their horns around and I think I was about to get in a fight.”


Other prizes went to an Egyptian urologist Ahmed Shafik who made rats wear trousers to see if this affected their ability to engage in reproductive behavior; and two psychologists undertook a study of the personalities of rocks. Volkswagen also got an dishonorable mention by scooping the chemistry prize for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromagnetically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested”.

The full set of awards were:

Reproduction Prize – Given to Ahmed Shafik who ran experiments to see what happened to the sex life of rats if they were made to wear polyester, cotton, or wool trousers.

Economics Prize – Awarded to Mark Avis for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective.

Physics Prize – Went to Gabor Horvath for studying why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for considering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones.

Chemistry Prize – This amusingly went to Volkswagen for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.

Medicine Prize – Was presented to Christoph Helmchen for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa).

Psychology Prize – Was won by Evelyne Debey afor asking a thousand liars how often they lie and then for deciding whether to believe those answers.

Peace Prize – Gordon Pennycook wrote the winning study in a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”.

Biology Prize – Awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living as a badger and to Thomas Thwaites, for living as a goat.

Literature Prize – Was won by Fredrik Sjoberg for a three-volume book about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead.

Perception Prize – Was jointly presented to Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for studying whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your