back to article Magnetic cockroaches, dirty money, wombat poo and posties' balls: It's the Ig Nobels 2019

The Annals of Improbable Research held its annual award-giving ceremony – the Ig Nobel Prize – on Thursday night at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, and the entries were as worthy as ever. Host for the event, top-hatted Annals editor Mark Abrams, introduced the 10 winners during a glittering evening peppered with science opera, …

  1. Shadow Systems

    Dabsie, you're being quite productive this week!

    I think you've posted more stories this week than you have in the past month combined.

    You must be imbibing quite a bit of caffeine.

    Please don't overstress yourself!

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Dabsie, you're being quite productive this week!

      He has a cunning plan.

      He's just back from hols, and demonstrating high productivity. So he can say to them, "gimme more hols, and you'll get yet more productivity". Ultimate goal: perma-hols (I've hyphenated perma hols for the benefit of your screen reader, lest it make something incomprehensible of permahols).

      1. Jedit

        "make something incomprehensible of permahols"

        Presumably your post icon indicates that you were making something incomprehensible of alcohols?

        1. Nick Kew

          Re: "make something incomprehensible of permahols"

          Well I certainly hope the beer is comprehensible.

  2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Engineering? Why?

    Engineering (Iran): For inventing a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.

    Why is this an Ig-Nobel? If it works, surely it's up there with fire, the wheel, sliced-bread and penicillin as one of the greatest inventions in history?

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Engineering? Why?

      So long as it doesn't malfunction and discard the wrong part.

      1. cookieMonster

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        but if that happens, its only 2 mins to make a new one, plus the nine months "baking" time ;-)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Engineering? Why?

          I don't think that's the part Andy was discussing ...

        2. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Engineering? Why?

          2 mins? You must be good, it takes most of us quite a bit longer than that.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Engineering? Why?

            A great sage once opined "Love is one minute and fifty nine seconds of soft squelching noises". However, it is not recorded if he was under the influence of anything at the time.

            1. O RLY

              Re: Engineering? Why?

              Two minutes and 52 seconds, so sayeth Johnny Rotten.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Engineering? Why?

                I guess the brain is the first to go after all ...

                "It's nice to be irritated. It's a very joyous thing." —John Lydon

                Ta for the correction. Have a homebrew on me :-)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Engineering? Why?

      Why is the wheel always in that list? If you think about it, the truly great invention was the axle.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        >Why is the wheel always in that list? If you think about it, the truly great invention was the axle.

        Right, because we all eat cheese by the axle. And make our pizzas in the shape of one.

        Don't be silly.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        > Why is the wheel always in that list? If you think about it, the truly great invention was the axle.

        What the inventor of the wheel did next.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Engineering? Why?

          That's not a percent sign, mate ... that's the prototype for two wheels and an axle.

      3. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        3500 BC was when the wheel was invented (I think the range is (3500 -- 3200).

        So not that long ago.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Engineering? Why?

          About 5,000 BCE last I heard. Was not for transportation, was for pottery. Look up "slow wheel" or "tournette" for more ...

      4. Gobhicks

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        The axle already existed - rollers. The great invention was putting wheels on the rollers. A wheel without an axle isn't really a wheel.

    3. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Engineering? Why?

      Why is sliced bread always mentioned as a great invention? I have yet to come across a white sliced bread that was any good, "barely edible" was the top. Rye bread is different, though.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        Modern store-bought bread in general ranges from "garbage that the hogs won't eat" to "almost, but not quite edible". Make your own bread, it's hardly rocket surgery. (There are still small mom&pop bakeries out there that make good bread .... if you have one in your area, feel blessed!)

    4. Outski Bronze badge

      Re: Engineering? Why?

      And this being El Reg, shouldn't it be nappy rather than diapper?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Engineering? Why?

        Well, it was invented in Iran ... Shirley they are allowed to call the machine whatever they want?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Engineering? Why?

          Originally it was designed as a turban assistant but they realized quickly that the mullahs would be unhappy with a head nappy so changed which end would be wrapped up

          And don't call me Shirley.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars

    Um, guys, if you have a trillion dollar note I think it is high time you review your life choices and, more importantly, re-evaluate your currency.

    1. Steve Aubrey

      Re: 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars

      They did. Probably several times since then.

    2. 9Rune5 Silver badge

      Re: 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars

      I think the real problem is the depiction of wombat droppings on the front there.

    3. Sloppy Crapmonster

      Re: 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars

      I just like that they use a variation of the Rock Band font on their money. At least, that's where I recognize it from. Those Ns!

    4. Andrew Moore

      Re: 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars

      Also, those notes have a "Use Before" date on them so the winners will need to cash them in very quickly (which, I think, involves a trip to Zim as no ForEx will touch them with a barge-pole)

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    On the bright side, a bunch of PhD types got grants and basically wandered off and aren't bothering people. Anyway, a pint for the winners in honor of achieving something for their resumes. even if it's just shoveling male cow manure.

  5. Conundrum1885

    Square wombat poop ?!

    Yes saw this article.

    Apparently its to do with surface tension among other things.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge

      Re: Square wombat poop ?!

      Yup. I’d be pretty tense if I was emmiting cubic pooh.

      There is a reason pooh is tapered at the end... it’s to stop your arse closing with a bang.

      1. Baldrickk
        IT Angle

        Re: Square wombat poop ?!

        Are you sure it's not because your rear end is trying to close with a bang that forces it into that shape?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Square wombat poop ?!

          Are you suggesting that shits are tapered so your asshole doesn't slam closed?

          (No need for an IT angle ... this is clearly Pootnotes.)

  6. HildyJ Silver badge

    Two future poop Ig Nobels

    First, genetically engineer dogs to poop square poop.

    Second, create a Poopba that follows your dog on walkies and picks the poop up so you don't have to.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

      Probably easier to engineer the laziness out of humans. My parents somehow managed to teach me to clean up after my critters ...

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

      "create a Poopba that follows your dog on walkies and picks the poop up so you don't have to."

      That's why I prefer cats, they don't require walkies and they go to next door's flower beds to carefully excavate a hole and then bury their contribution to fertilising the neighbour's plants.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

        Our acreage belongs to the (mostly feral[0]) cats, but they share it with us in return for fresh water, a place to sleep away from the coyotes, and a little quality chow. They also share with the folks east, west, and south of us (all of whom understand cats). The cats pee and poop at the outer corners of the ranch, where it won't get in anybody's way ... and in the fancy rose garden and pool area of the asshole who lives just north of us. He hates cats, and they carefully return the favo(u)r ...

        The idiot to the north is clueless. And has had a serious rodent problem for the decade and a half that he has lived there ... Strangely enough, we don't, and neither do the neighbors to the east, west and south. I wonder why.

        [0] Most of them get trapped at least once for spay/neuter and basic injections (difficult or impossible to live trap a feral cat more than once) ... According to the vet, they probably titer out for things like rabies for as long as they live, which isn't long. Sad to say, the ferals are part of the food chain here in Northern California.

      2. John 110

        Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

        The cats that visit our garden aren't fussy where they poop, but I think they get extra points for going where I walk when I take stuff to the bin or washing line.

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

        It took me many years to work out why people who hate cats complained about cats shitting in their gardens. I'd always lived with cats, and knew that they take care to crap in quiet, out of the way spots where you're unlikely to stumble on (in) it.

        Then I realised, cats don't crap in their own territory, or at least the nice part, but if you don't own a cat (because you hate them) then your garden is no cat's territory, and hence a perfect place for a feline waste dump.

        Well, it's either that or cats know who doesn't like them, and enjoy shitting on them...

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

          I concur. With two fairly fierce mogs who have what appears to be a dislike of their fellows, they do keep their territory clean.

    3. 's water music

      Re: Two future poop Ig Nobels

      Second, create a Poopba that follows your dog on walkies and picks the poop up so you don't have to.

      regular Roomba's will pick up pet scat already. There may be room for improvement but rebranding is pretty much the same as reengineering after all

      Icon for an alternate containment approach that also may also have issues to iron out-->

  7. Sloppy Crapmonster

    Google says "Sorry, we could not calculate directions from "Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138" to "Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba" "

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Just ask Uncle Sam, helped enough people on that one way street (none are coming back).

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Poop composition

      And how does that relate to this years IgNobels?

      Could you just not find anywhere else to deposit your poop?

    2. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: Poop composition

      " dogs eat anything. Literally. Even cat feces."

      My colleague tells how her dog patiently waits for the cat to finish in the litter tray, then he helps himself to the resultant kitty crunchies.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Always knew..

    Americans love their dirty money and now we have scientific proof!

    Pint because its still the weekend and they all deserve one.

    1. Piro

      Re: Always knew..

      Wait, people these days wait until the weekend before indulging in a few pints?

      No wonder the pub trade is in dire straits.

      To all: do your best to keep the pubs alive!

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Always knew..

        Far from it, but I can indulge in more over the weekend.

  10. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Wombat cubes!

    I read that research and thought it was shit hot (sorry) research because of the applications in extruding manufactured products (for example).

    Sausages with flat sides are much easier to cook, to pick just one thing.

    Also fascinating that apparently male wombats mark their territory with piles of crap (hang on, sounding uncomfortably familiar here) and the cube shape stops the turds rolling away.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Wombat cubes!

      I hope for your sake that you are aware that poop and sausages aren't the same thing ...

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Wombat cubes!

        -- poop and sausages aren't the same thing ... --

        Well, they share some inputs and means of production.

        While pondering such things, there was a documentary a while back about the airships of The Great War. One fascinating snippet was that the gas-bags (or at least their liners) were made of "sausage casing", slit to make sheets out of tubes and "laminated" by heat and pressure to form _big_ sheets, and thus gasbags. The show also discussed the invention of the incendiary bullet and the refinement of aircraft tactics on the part of the RAF, but the bit of this manufacturing method and the Wurst Famine stuck in my mind. There appears to be a (text) summary at:

        1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

          Re: Wombat cubes!

          YOU'RE a gas bag.

          As my teens would say.

          I'll get me coat. It's not the one marked "Youth", but "Juvenile".

  11. FozzyBear

    The little girl on stage

    Stamping her feet I think should be Introduced into every actors award show, oscars, emmy's, etc. Most importantly, the same concept should be a permanent fixture in every democratic parliament, Differing catch phrases based on the "Speech" at the time.

    Please stop bullshitting.

    Please stop you're talk out your arse

    Please stop the lies.

    You are not paid to waste the tax payers money

    Please answer the question, Just answer the bloody question

    1. Thrudd the Barbarian

      Re: The little girl on stage

      I much prefer the air horn if you actually like the political blowhards or a taser that exponentially increases with verbiage.

      1. Wenlocke

        Re: The little girl on stage

        The classic iron bar with a heater. The longer you speak, the warmer it gets. No gloves allowed, so the longer you speak, the more chance you have of getting burned. Encourages brevity.

  12. chrishansenhome

    This comment is not about wombat poo at all

    While wombat poo is something that we can discuss for aeons, a more pressing subject is the name of the presenter of the awards. He's not Mark Abrams, he's Marc Abrahams.

    As I have twice won Annals of Improbable Research's monthly limerick contest, I am well acquainted with his name and hope you'll correct the error precipitously. Or else I'll come on stage after a minute shouting "Please're incorrect."

  13. Tom 35


    So they decided to take filthy lucre literally and tried to measure it.

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