July 03, 2015 | Updated at 01:05 PM EDT The Latest Entertainment & Celebrity News

Oddest and Silliest Discoveries of 2012 Awarded Nobel Prizes' Whimsical Counterparts

Psychologists who discovered that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, neuroscientists who found brain activity in a dead salmon, and designers of a device that can silence blowhards are among the winners of Ig Nobel prizes for the oddest and silliest real discoveries.

By Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters on Sep 21, 2012 11:09 AM EDT
facebook tweet this pin it plus
Sign Up for Newsletter
  • "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"
  • Nobel Prize laureate for Economics in 2007 Eric Maskin (L-R), Nobel Prize laureate for Medicine in 1993 Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize laureate for Chemistry in 1986 Dudley Herschbach, keynote speaker Robert Kirshner and Nobel Prize laureate for Physics in 2005 Roy Glauber lean to the left to demonstrate the Ig Nobel Psychology Prize winners' study that "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller" during the 22nd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 20, 2012. The annual Ig Nobel prizes, meant to celebrate the unusual and encourage scientific research, are awarded by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes (Photo : Reuters)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Psychologists who discovered that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, neuroscientists who found brain activity in a dead salmon, and designers of a device that can silence blowhards are among the winners of Ig Nobel prizes for the oddest and silliest real discoveries.

The annual prizes are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel prizes, which will be announced early next month.

Former winners of the real Nobels hand out the Ig Nobel awards at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Ig Nobels for 2012 also went to U.S. researchers who discovered that chimps can recognize other chimps by looking at snapshots of their backsides, and to a Swedish researcher for solving the puzzle of why people's hair turned green while living in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden. (The culprit was a combination of copper pipes and hot showers.)

Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels who announced the winners on Thursday, said one of his personal favorites was this year's Acoustics Prize.
Japanese researchers Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada created the SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person's speech by playing it back with a very slight delay.

"It's a small thing you aim at someone who is droning on and on," Abrahams said. "What the person hears is just off enough that it completely disconcerts and discombobulates them, and they stop talking. It has thousands of potential good uses."

Abrahams' panel of experts also cited the work of Dutch psychologists Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and PhD student Tulio Guadalupe for their study, "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller."

The work explored how posture influences estimations of size: with leaning to the left correlating with lower estimates, and leaning to the right correlating with higher estimates.

The team tested this by placing 33 undergraduates on a Wii Balance Board, which tilted slightly to the left or the right while they were asked to guess the size of objects, including the height of the Eiffel Tower.

As expected, those who leaned left had lower guesses than those who leaned to the right or stood up straight.

DEAD SALMON 'THINK'

One of the more infamous studies winning an Ig Nobel was for research detecting meaningful brain activity in a dead salmon.

It started as a lark, explains Craig Bennett of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies adolescent brain development using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, a technique for measuring brain activity.

Before starting tests on people, scientists first check their equipment using a phantom object, typically a sphere filled with mineral oil. But since any object will do, Bennett and colleagues had been trying out a variety of items, including a pumpkin, a Cornish game hen, and finally, an Atlantic salmon.

In the salmon test, the team showed photos to the dead fish and asked it to determine what emotion the person was feeling.

"By random chance and by simple noise, we saw small data points in the brain of the fish that were considered to be active," said Bennett. "It was a false positive. It's not really there."

The often-quoted study exposed the perils of fMRI science, which can be prone to false signals, and underscored the need to do statistical corrections to safeguard against such silly findings.

"It's a great teachable moment for how we should process the MRI data," he said.

OTHER WINNERS: - Physicists at Unilever led by Dr. Patrick Warren and at Stanford University led by Professor Joe Keller for their use of mathematics to explain why ponytails take on their distinctive "tail" shape. The Ig Nobel is Keller's second. - Igor Petrov and colleagues at the SKN Company in Russia for using technology to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds. - Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for illuminating why carrying a cup of coffee often ends up in a spill. - French researcher Emmanuel Ben-Soussan on how doctors performing colonoscopies can minimize the chance of igniting gasses that make their patients explode. - The U.S. Government GeneralAccountability Office, for issuing a report recommending the preparation of a report to discuss the impact of reports about reports.

© 2015 Enstarz, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

facebook tweet this pin it plus
Contribute to this Story send us a tip send us a tip send us a tip
Sign Up for Newsletters

Around The Web

  • SEARCH ENSTARS

Sawyer Fredericks

'The Voice' Champ Sawyer Fredericks Is Destined To Be The Show's First Superstar

As if you need to be reminded, here are five reasons we think The Voice's Sawyer Fredericks is destined to be the show's first superstar.

Sawyer Fredericks

'The Voice' Winner's California Trip Just Became 'A Little More Interesting,' But Why?

Peep pictures from Sawyer Fredericks' 'interesting' trip to Los Angeles. They are not typical photos from the studio...

Longmire

'Longmire' Star Louanne Stephens 'Saying Goodbye' To Robert Taylor

Ruby is sharing her last scenes with the sheriff for season 4.

Jamie Dornan

Jamie Dornan Loses 'Rear Of The Year' Honor

Jamie Dornan doesn't have the best butt in Britain, apparently.

karlie redd

'LHHATL' Star Karlie Redd Breaks Her Silence On Co-Star Joseline Hernandez

Karlie Redd is setting the record straight on what really happened between her and her 'Love and Hip Hop Atlanta' co-star Joseline Hernandez after reports flew that they got into a huge fight.

BET Awards

Here's How You Can Watch The 2015 BET Awards Live Online

BET airs it's annuals awards show tonight at 8 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. CST. Here's how you can keep up with all the action online for free.

Sawyer Fredericks

'The Voice' Champ Sawyer Fredericks Is Destined To Be The Show's First Superstar

As if you need to be reminded, here are five reasons we think The Voice's Sawyer Fredericks is destined to be the show's first superstar.

Abby Lee Miller

Is Maddie Ziegler Quitting 'Dance Moms?'

Maddie Ziegler might not be back for season six of 'Dance Moms.'

Karlie Redd

Karlie Redd Possibly Laughs Off Reprots Joseline Hernandez Gave Her A Beat Down

Karlie Redd might wants fans to know that there's no truth in rumors that Joseline Hernandez beat her up, but some fans aren't buying it. Read more to find out why.

Sawyer Fredericks

Latest 'Voice' Winner Shares Pictures From The Studio With His 'Enthusiastic Team'

Peep pictures from the studio with 'Voice' winner Sawyer Fredericks!

Martha Madison

Martha Madison Will Return For The 'Days Of Our Lives' 50th Anniversary

Martha Madison has officially confirmed her plans to bring her character back.

Katrina Kaif & Ranbir Kapoor

Katrina Kaif & Ranbir Kapoor Spotted At Birthday Bash

Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor were spotted in Mumbai celebrating actor Arjun Kapoor's birthday.

Sawyer Fredericks & Others

Who Does The Latest 'Voice' Winner's Mom Regard As 'Absolutely Wonderful' From The Show?

Sawyer Fredericks' mom Kirsten recently dished some deets about her son's upcoming album and more.

Longmire

'Longmire' Star Louanne Stephens 'Saying Goodbye' To Robert Taylor

Ruby is sharing her last scenes with the sheriff for season 4.

Sawyer Fredericks

'The Voice' Season 8 Winner Is Out In Los Angeles Working On His Album!

Find out how the first few days of production on the latest 'Voice' winner's album is going.

Latest News

Cynthia Bailey

'RHOA' Star Addresses Rumors She Had An Affair With Cynthia Bailey's Husband

Cynthia Bailey is now facing rumors that the woman her husband Peter Thomas gets close to in the mystery video is a star of Bravo's 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta.'

American Flag

Where To Find The Best Deals On Summer Gear This July 4th Weekend!

Celebrate Independence Day right by taking advantage of these great deals before they're gone

Joseline Hernandez

Fight Breaks Between Joseline Hernandez & Jessica 'Penny Dime'

Joseline Hernandez and Jessica Dime exchange much more than insults in the upcoming episode of 'Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.'

Scott Disick

Scott Disick Gets Cozy With Ex-Girlfriend Chloe Bartoli In Monaco: See Photos

Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian may be done -- for real this time.

Braxton Family Values

Towanda Possibly Betrays Tamar Amid Sister Drama On 'BFV"

The drama between Tamar Braxton and her sisters was at an all-time high on 'Braxton Family Values', and now it has Tamar questioning her safety.

Quad Webb-Lunceford

'Married To Medicine' Star Quad Webb-Lunceford On Lisa Nicole Cloud 'I Don't Deal With People Whose Checks Bounce'

Quad Webb-Lunceford wants fans to know the real deal on her 'Married To Medicine' co-star Lisa Nicole Cloud.

Tami Roman & Shaunie O'Neal

Tami Roman & Shaunie O'Neal Diss 'Flat' & 'Fake' New Co-Stars

Tami Roman & Shaunie O'Neal make it clear they're not the new ladies on 'Basketball Wives LA' and have lots to say about their new fellow cast mates.

Meghan Trainor

Meghan Trainor Cancels Start Of The MTrain Tour Due To Vocal Cord Problems!

Meghan Trainor cancels this weekend's shows since she's having severe vocal cord problems!

American Horror Story

Angela Bassett Talks Jessica Lange's Exit From 'American Horror Story'

Angela Bassett is confident that Jessica Lange will always have a home with the series.

Featured Videos

From Our Partners

AJ Lee

AJ Lee WWE Rumors: Former Diva Re-Tweets [VIDEO] Of Her Kissing CM Punk In Ring

AJ Lee and CM Punk are out of the WWE, but the the three-time Divas Champion re-tweeted a video of the two kissing in the squared circle.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez Next Fight: Timothy Bradley A Real Possibility For Winner Of Miguel Cotto Bout? [VIDEO]

Timothy Bradley is riding high after handing Jessie Vargas his first loss, and wants to challenge Cotto and Canelo.

Kobe Bryant

Lamarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant Beef? Did Laker Star's Twitter PHOTO Deter Free Agent Prize Away From LA? [Video]

With time running out on Kobe Bryant’s career perhaps it’s time he changes his ways.

Martin St. Louis

Martin St. Louis Retirement: 3 Best Moments In Future Hall of Famer's Career [VIDEOS]

Martin St. Louis announced his retirement, putting an end to a Hall of Fame-worthy 16-year career. Here are three of his best moments.

T.J. Oshie

NHL Trade Rumors: 3 Biggest Deals Thus Far This Offseason [VIDEOS]

It's been a busy offseason thus far in the National Hockey League, and here'a a recap of the three biggest trades to happen as clubs prepare for the 2015-16 campaign.

Alex Rodriguez

New York Yankees Rumors: A-Rod An All-Star? Alex Rodriguez 'Dreams' Of Playing In Midsummer Classic [VIDEO]

After missing a year and bouncing back with a solid campaign, Alex Rodriguez wants to be an All-Star.

Cole Hamels

Philadelphia Phillies Rumors: Cole Hamels To Astros Trade Dead?

Cole Hamels is a prime pitcher on the trade block, but not every team has a chance to get him.

Lana

Rusev & Summer Rae WWE Rumors: Lana Discusses Catfight With Summer On RAW [VIDEO]

Lana talked about her catfight with Summer Rae on 'RAW' and said Rusev "doesn't treat women right."

Conor McGregor

UFC 189 Rumors: Conor McGregor To Prepare For Chad Mendes With 'As Much Sex As Possible'? [VIDEO]

Conor McGregor has lots of sex before big fights, and would dismantle Floyd Mayweather.

Real Time Analytics