The Ig Nobel Prize joking with the word ignoble and Nobel, this year it was repeated as always in most satirical way possible, and even if there was no live ceremony, due to Covid-19, it was still held electronically.
Ig Nobel Ecology
We therefore applaud the committee’s decision to award this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in Ecology to researchers from the University of Valencia, Spain, for their studies on the chewing gum microbiome. They found that the dominant bacterial strains in freshly deposited chewing gum are human oral strains, but they give way over the course of weeks to more characteristic strains of the surrounding environment.
We would like to file this under “good to know”, but our interest brightens considerably when we learn from team member Manuel Porcar of an impending new era of chewing gum forensics that could help pinpoint the identity of vile depositors. through their unique oral microbiome.
In a somewhat unexpected way, Porcar reveals that his team he also studied the microbiome of solar panels, discovering that it is largely the same all over the world. We can only assume that this is because people are less likely to lick solar panels. I would say it is best avoided.
Ig Nobel on distraction
Two Ig Nobels were awarded in this space this year: one to a largely Dutch team that installed sensors at Eindhoven train station to model like pedestrians manage to avoid collisions, and another to a Japanese team to see how smartphone-distracted participants change habits and things around them.
Similar work had been done on bacteria and fish, says Alessandro Corbetta of the Dutch team, but not on humans. “For good reasons, probably”. Murakami Hisashi, who led the Japanese research (conclusion: things are easier if everyone is watching where they are going), confesses: “I don’t actually have my smartphone, but I have to try not to read a book while walking.” We somehow find this much more endearing and forgivable.