The ceremony in Massachusetts for the irreverent recognition of science. Recognition also to the team that designed the machine to wash children and change diapers.
ROME – The symbol par excellence of “Made in Italy”, the much-loved pizza, won a Nobel Prize. Not just anyone, but an IgNobel: the irreverent prizes to science that “makes you laugh then make you think”. Waiting for the Stockholm awards, yesterday at the Sanders Theater of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, prizes were awarded which – in addition to celebrating the most foolish side of science – aim to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imagination – and stimulate people’s interest in science, medicine and technology “, the organizers say. And in winners, they win nothing less than a ten-billion-dollar Zimbabwe bill. And never mind if the currency has been off course for ten years now and the value of the prize is substantially zero.
Meanwhile, Italy has brought home recognition. Silvano Gallus, of the Mario Negri Irccs Institute of Pharmacological Research in Milan, received the award for medicine for having collected evidence that “pizza could protect against illness and death, but only if it is produced and consumed in Italy”. Research shows that regular pizza consumption is linked to a lower risk of digestive tract cancer and heart attack. The first study was published in 2006 in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention with the title “Consumption of pizza and risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer”. The other – “Does pizza protect against cancer?” – was released in the International Journal of Cancer, in 2013.
The maximum recognition in the anatomy category went to Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa for their 2007 work on measuring “scrotal asymmetry of temperature in naked postmen and clothes in France”. The study stems from research in the field of fertility and spermatogenesis. The results show that the scrotum temperatures on the right and left are not symmetrical, regardless of position, activity, and clothing.
Fritz Strack of the University of Würzburg won the psychology award for discovering “that keeping a pen in your mouth makes you smile, which makes you happier but then finds out it doesn’t.” An award won for discovering that his 1988 discovery was not true. A Japanese team took home the chemistry prize to estimate the total volume of saliva produced by a five-year-old child every day: that’s 500 milliliters a day. Iman Farahbakhsh of Iran won the engineering prize for his machine that washes children and changes diapers, the washing machine-like instrument was patented in the United States last year.
An international team has instead received the Nobel Peace Prize for having measured the pleasure of scratching an itch. And they found that scratching on the back gives more pleasure than doing it on the forearm. The honor to the economy goes instead to the research that discovers which banknotes transmit the bacteria better than all the others. The result? The most dangerous for the transmission of germs is the Romanian leu.
Several Italians counted among the winners in recent years. In 2017 it happened with the Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology, assigned to a research group of the Santa Lucia Foundation IRCCS and the Sapienza University of Rome for a study on homozygotic twins who have difficulty distinguishing their faces from their siblings. A double acknowledgment had instead arrived in 2014, with the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics, assigned to Istat for having included the illegal activities in the calculation of GDP, and the Nobel Prize for art, which went to three scholars of the University of Bari who had measured the pain-relieving power of art.
In 2013 the physics award was given to a study signed by the Universities of Milan and Tor Vergata which demonstrated the possibility for some people to walk on water only on the moon. No Italians in the 2018 edition, where, among others, Voodoo rites against the abuses of the headmaster, stamps as markers of nocturnal erection, the properties of saliva as a detergent and the demonstration of how to go on a roller coaster can be rewarded free from kidney stones.