March 01, 2015 | Updated at 11:25 PM EST 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

Jamie Dornan

Jamie Dornan & Amelia Wife Called 'Insanely Adorable' Together

Forget those rumors that say Jamie Dornan's marriage to wife Ameila Warner is on the rocks.

Andi Dorfman

Andi Dorfman Says She Never Cheated On Josh Murray

Andi Dorfman is setting the record straight when it comes to her love life.

Taraji P. Henson & Terrence Howard

'Empire' Stars Reveal If They've Slept Together In Real Life

It's no secret Taraji P. Henson & Terrence Howard have lots of chemistry as they portray Cookie & Lucious Lyon on Fox's new juggernaut series Empire. But now the two have revealed if they have ever taken their romance off the small screen.

Joe and Teresa Giudice

Teresa Giudice Reportedly Gained 15 Pounds, Joe Indulges In Drinking Amid 'Legal Mess'

Word is 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' star Teresa Giudice is finding comfort in food as she serves time in federal prison while her husband, Joe, reportedly indulges in alcohol.

Julianne Hough

Julianne Hough & Fellow Judges Working With 'DWTS' Celebs In New Season?

'Dancing With the Stars' judge Julianne Hough recently revealed a new twist that may be coming in the upcoming 20th season.

Mob Wives

Karen Gravano & Natalie Didonato Team Up Against Nat G.

The drama continues and the ladies on VH1's 'Mob Wives' are ready for war.

Mob Wives Reality Star Natalie Guercio

'Mob Wives' Natalie Didonato Proves That Natalie Guercio Is A Liar?

Things between Natalie Guercio and her cast mates are heating up and it looks like there's officially proof that the reality star may be the one spilling everyone's secrets. I

WWE

WWE 'Raw' LIVE STREAM Free: Watch 'Monday Night Wrestling 2015' Online @ 8PM ET

Find out what will happen in the wake of 'Fastlane'

Matthew Atkinson

Austin Is Fine On 'Young and the Restless'?

Things at the police station will become increasing difficult to deal with as Summer Newman Travers (Hunter King) continues to freak out.

Witches Of East End cast

Blog Post Gives Details On How Fans Can Save 'Witches Of East End'

If fans want to see a third season of 'Witches of East End,' perhaps they might be able to make some real magic happen.

Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner

Did Scott Disick Get Kendall Jenner Pregnant?

Another day, another rumor about the Kardashian family.

Bow Wow, Erica Mena

Bow Wow Checks Future Wife Erica Mena 'Always On Your Phone!'

As CSI: Cyber actor Bow Wow (real name Shad Moss) and Love & Hip Hop New York star Erica Mena gear up for their spring wedding, they're sharing more of their special moments with millions of fans on social media.

Meri and Kody Brown of 'Sister Wives'

WATCH As Meri Reveals Her Divorce Intnetions To Kody For The First Time On 'Sister Wives'

It's been shocking to fans of Sister Wives that Meri made the decision to divorce Kody after two decades being his only legal life, and finally, the moment she revealed her painful choice has been made available to fans.

Spencer's Life is in danger on the Feb. 25, 2015 episode of 'General Hospital'

Spencer's Life Hangs In The Balance On 'General Hospital'

He was supposed to be having the most epic birthday party a 10-year-old boy could hope for, but Spencer's (Nicholas Bechtel) celebration has quickly turned into what could be the last he will ever experience on General Hospital.

Evan Peters

Should Evan Peters Take Over As Sole Lead of 'American Horror Story'?

Evan Peters is frequently the male lead on FX's 'American Horror Story' but with Jessica Lange out of the picture, could he become the sole lead of the show?

Latest News

Lady Gaga Taylor Kinney

Lady Gaga & Taylor Kinney Plunge Into Freezing Water For Special Awareness

Lady Gaga, who's known for not being afraid to take on bizarre stunts, has achieved a new one that was pretty 'chilling' to say the least.

Agents Of SHIELD

'Agents Of SHIELD' Raina Hits An Inhuman 'Set Back' In Midseason Premiere

Find out what's next for the other newest Inhuman.

Brooklyn Beckham

Brooklyn Beckham Shows Off His Stylish Good Looks On Instagram

The oldest son of celebrity couple David and Victoria Beckham has proven that he is not a child anymore.

Supernatural

'Supernatural' Season 10 Finale Title Revealed [VIDEO]

Check out the reported title for the rest of season 10.

Natalie Guercio

Natalie Guercio Slams Natalie Didonato After Releasing Audio Tape On 'Mob Wives'

Natalie Guercio is furious after her sworn enemy Natalie Didonato released some audio as proof that Guercio lied about being a 'rat' and calling the police on her ex-boyfriend.

Real World Skeletons

Did Bruno Call It Quits With His Girlfriend On 'Real World: Skeletons'

Bruno might make a huge mistake on the next episode of 'Real World: Skeletons.'

The Walking Dead

Fan On Twitter Dish On New 'The Walking Dead' Episode 'Remember'

There is going to be a drastic change on Sunday night’s new episode of 'The Walking Dead,' because the survivors, who have been wandering lost for nearly 2 years, have finally reached a place of refuge.

Kanye West

Kanye West Reveals Surprising Information About New Album

Kanye West doesn't always use Twitter, but when he does, it's usually for something good.

Channing Tatum Jenna Dewan

Channing Tatum & Jenna Dewan Move Into Dazzling New Home In Beverly Hills

Celebrity couple Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan are definitely about to live it up as they move into a fancy new home in the big city.

Ciara

Ciara Makes An Extra Effort To Hang Out With Fans In Australia

It looks as though Ciara is making lemonade out of lemons as she is trying to get back on track after her disastrous tour stop in New Zealand.

Featured Videos

From Our Partners

AS Monaco

AS Monaco vs. PSG Live Stream Free Online: Ligue 1 Table 2015, Projected Lineups and Tactical Preview

Two clubs in the top half of the Ligue 1 table will do battle today in a league match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. The first-division clash scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET will be held at the Stade Louis II in Monaco and can be live streamed here free.

Marco Fabian

Chivas Guadalajara vs. Monterrey Live Stream Free Online: Liga MX Clausura 2015, Projected Lineups and Tactical Preview

Two clubs chasing the Clausura Liga MX title will do battle today in a league match between Chivas Guadalajara and Monterrey. The first-division clash scheduled for 6 p.m. ET will be held at the Estadio Omnilife in Guadalajara. It can be live streamed here free and via the Univision Deportes mobile app. Additional TV coverage can be found on UniMas.

Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe Grillz: Phoenix Suns Point Guard Drops $2500 On Custom Gold Teeth [VIDEO]

The grillz cover the six bottom teeth of Suns PG Eric Bledsoe's mouth and apparently contain 18 karats of gold, to go with six encrusted diamonds.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 DLC Valley Of The Yetis Is Coming March 10 [VIDEO]

You know what Far Cry 4 needed more of? Yetis.

Chris Johnson

Florida Gators Football News: Team Mourns The Death of 22-Year-Old Former Player Chris Johnson [TWEETS]

As news of this tragic circumstance made its away around Twitter, many tweeted some heartfelt memorials.

Game of Thrones

Game Of Thrones Season 5 News And Spoilers: New Promos And Posters Hint At Darker Times In Coming Season [VIDEO]

There are some juicy treats from Westeros this week as not only a new poster for Games of Thrones has been released, but two new short promos as well. As if there was any doubt, the promo certainly reveals that winter is most assuredly coming.

Megan Calipari

John Calipari's Daughter: Kentucky Wildcats Coach's Kin Posts Hilarious Tweet

The Wildcats defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 84-67 over the weekend, to push their overall record to 29-0.

Joey Logano

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Atlanta Watch FREE Live Stream Online & Listen: Chase For The Cup Live Coverage STARTING GRID

Today at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta will get underway with Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano sitting atop the pole. Race fans can live stream the action for free by clicking this link.

Power/Rangers

Power Ranger Fan Film: Full NSFW Version Back Up As Two Sides Reach An Agreement

Joseph Kahn's brutal and dark take on the Power Rangers, a short well executed fan film titled Power/Rangers took the world by storm last week when it was posted online. Just as soon as it went up, the bloody, definitely not safe for work title was pulled down. Now it seems it's back for good.

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey Next Fight: What Opponent Next For The Unbeatable UFC Champion? [VIDEO]

Zingano was supposed to be Rowdy Ronda's most dangerous opponent yet, but she was plain steamrolled.

Real Time Analytics