Beer bottle beetle sex nets Canadian Ig Nobel prize
Two Canadian scientists, including one who helped discover that some beetles try to mate with Australian beer bottles, received Ig Nobel Prizes Thursday night, joining a list of previous winners including those who studied whale snot and fish that fart to communicate.
University of Toronto professor Daryll Gwynne and his Australian colleague David Rentz were awarded the spoof prize for their 1983 paper Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females.
"I'm honoured, I think," Gwynne said in a statement. "The awards make people think, and they're a bit of a laugh. Really, we've been sitting here by the phone for the past 20 plus years waiting for the call. Why did it take them so long?"
Gwynne said he and Rentz were conducting field work in Australia when they noticed male beetles trying to mate with bottles. He said the stubbies resemble a super female jewel beetle.
University of Toronto professor John Senders also won an award for his experiments in which a driver on a major highway repeatedly has a visor flapped down over his face.
Ten scientists received awards at a ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., the 21st incarnation of the prizes organized by a magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research.
The categories vary from year to year, but they include many of the same categories as the Nobel prizes, such as medicine, chemistry, physics and economics, and they are handed out by Nobel laureates. This year's presenters include Dudley Herschbach, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 and Roy Glauber, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005.
Last year's winners included a research team that figured out how to collect whale snot using a remote controlled helicopter and another that showed severe asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.
There have been Canadian winners in the past, including University of British Columbia fisheries researcher Ben Wilson, who was honoured in 2004 for demonstrating that herring communicate through flatulence.
Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, told CBC's Michael Bhardwaj that he thinks the most memorable prize in the history of the awards so far went to a Dutch researcher who documented and published the first known case of homosexual necrophilia among ducks. After he picked up his award, Abrahams said, other scientists came forward with stories of similar incidents they had observed among squirrels, swans and other animals.
Abrahams said that while Ig Nobel research may sound crazy, so can any major discovery or innovation at first. He added that many innovations such as cars, smartphones or lawnmowers wouldn't exist without some of those silly ideas.