It’s once again that time of year when we talk about the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony – an actual ceremony, held in Massachusetts, that celebrates the head-scratching scientific discoveries that are ignored by the so-called “Nobel Prize Committee”, because they did not get into the business to be entertaining.

But the Ig Nobel Prizes are no less real.  Along with a trophy, the winners get an all-expenses-paid trip to the ceremony – with all expenses paid by the winners themselves – as well as ten trillion dollars of Zimbabwe currency, which comes out to about 40 cents American, that they can put toward paying their airfare, if they so choose. 

Therefore, so as not to waste these people’s time any longer, let’s dive right into it, so they can get home:

The prize for Medicine this year went to scientists in Italy, “for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illnesses such as cancer and myocardial infarction.” 

Myocardial infarction is Italian for “heart attacks”. 

The science doesn’t work at all.  Pizza is bad for everything that might cause a heart attack, but apparently it prevents the actual heart attack.  But this is why kids, who eat nothing but pizza, rarely have heart attacks.  This is also why Jews, baruch Hashem, have always been on a strict diet of eating pizza every Motzoei Shabbos. And also Thursday night.  And in the Nine Days, which are inauspicious times.  You can’t be too careful. 

Unfortunately, according to the study, this might only work if the pizza is from Italy.  Something about the way they make it over there.  But who cares?  We all stopped paying attention after “pizza might protect against illness.”  And the study was never conclusive.  So for the time being, we should keep eating pizza religiously (by which I mean Motzoei Shabbos, immediately after Pesach, and at bas-mitzvah parties) just to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile, the prize for Medical Education went to some scientists in the United States for using a simple animal-training technique -- called “clicker training” -- to teach surgeons to perform orthopedic surgery.  Because giving them treats wasn’t working.  Nor was patting them on the head when they did a good surgery.

Clicker training is a process in which, when an animal does something right, you click a little device immediately so the animal can pinpoint exactly what he did right.  Otherwise, the animal is left wondering, “What are you rewarding me for, exactly?  I just did ten things.”

But this process works on animals, so they figured, “Why not try this on humans?” 

And you’re going to say, “Because humans understand words.”  But how specific are anyone’s words?  How many times have you done something wrong, where someone -- and we mean your wife -- has yelled at you, and you didn’t know specifically what she was yelling at you about

“Don’t do that!” 

“Don’t do what?  I just did ten things!” 

But if she presses a button on a clicker, you have a better idea.  And then she can give you a treat.  So in this case, the teachers would click immediately and then put a treat in the doctors’ mouths, because their hands are otherwise occupied.

The prize for Biology this year went to scientists in in six different countries “for discovering that dead magnetized cockroaches behave differently than living magnetized cockroaches.”  Obviously.  But now it’s been scientifically proven.

I’m surprised the living magnetized cockroaches behave at all.  Maybe the scientists were using clickers. 

I love how the magnetization itself is glossed over.  The scientists magnetized cockroaches.  But who cares?  We want to know if the living ones are now different than the dead ones.  Because they were different before, so now we want to see if they’re still different. 

And if you can’t understand the benefits of magnetizing cockroaches, you’ve never seen one scurry under a fridge.  So now you can watch them scurry up the fridge.  Except for the dead ones.  And you can also use them as magnets to hold up your kids’ craft projects. 

To conduct the study, the scientists put roaches up on their fridge.  The live roaches lost their magnetism in 50 minutes, at which point they fell off or tried to make off with the fruit magnets.  The dead ones took 47.5 hours to fall.  So we’re a long way away from using dead roaches as magnets for more than two days at a time.  Which makes them perfect for craft projects you don’t really want to keep for that long. 

“What happened to my project?” 

“I don’t know.  Check under the fridge…  No, don’t.”

Meanwhile, the Psychology prize went to German scientist Fritz Strack, “for discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier – and then later discovering that it does not.”

The idea was that when people were holding a pen in their mouth, they found more humor in things, such as comic strips, or the fact that they were standing in public with the scientists’ pen in their mouths.

Anyway, this is in case you’re wondering why, whenever people borrow your pens, they feel the need to put it in their mouth.  I have a couple of pens that I only lend to other people. 

But I’m pretty sure Fritz was talking about putting the pen in your mouth sideways, which very few people do absent-mindedly.  At best, they try to hold it that way between their nose and their upper lip.  And that makes them happy. 


Basically, the idea is that if you make a facial expression, your mood will grow to mimic that expression.  It’s also why the longer you hold an angry face, the madder you get.  Until someone comes by and sticks a pen in your mouth sideways, to break it up.

I suppose you could also measure other ways of forcing people into smiles, such as pinching both of their cheeks at the same time.  Though the findings will probably be that pinching someone’s cheeks does not cause them to be happier, it causes the pincher to be happier.  Though this amount of happiness inversely correlates to whether the person they’re pinching has facial hair.

Fritz first conducted this experiment in the 1980s, and he concluded that it makes you happier.  But then he did the experiment again more recently, and it didn’t work.  Needless to say, he was not happy.  So he put a pen in his mouth.  And it didn’t work.  He just felt a little bit like a horse.

And speaking of putting things in your mouth, the Chemistry prize this year went to Shigeru Watanabe of Japan, for measuring the total volume of saliva produced per day by a typical five-year-old child, as represented by an average of his three sons.

They did not do this via a spitting battle.

They found that, on average, a five-year-old produces a half liter of saliva per day, which is a nauseating amount, and we’re sorry we brought it up.  Though babies probably produce more – definitely enough to slide around the house on their stomachs on a trail of their own drool.  Next, the scientists will study how much saliva you produce holding someone else’s pen between your teeth for an extended amount of time.

The Ig Nobel Peace Prize this year went to a team of researchers in England, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore “for trying to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.”  Until now, they’d been measuring it scientifically with a chart of little faces.  Our entire lives, our parents have been telling us that we shouldn’t scratch, but based on this new research, we can decide on our own if it’s worth the downsides.

Basically, they ranked the ankles the most pleasurable to scratch, followed by the back, and then the forearm.  And they are wrong.  The back is clearly the most pleasurable, and they didn’t even mention that itch in your inner ear where you have to vibrate your pinky and clear your throat at the same time. 

But any of these, they say, is a good way to achieve happiness, if you don’t have a pen.  Though a good hairbrush helps.

The prize for Engineering this year went to Iman Farahbakhsh of Iran, “for inventing and patenting a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.”

As opposed to what other species?   

America may be the greatest country, but I can’t believe Iran is ahead of us in the things that matter.

The machine works, they say, along the same lines as a standard dishwasher.  Basically, it’s a machine for under your kitchen counter, or possibly next to your washer/dryer, that you can put your kid into, leaving your hands free to play with your fridge magnets.  And the only downside is that later in life, your child will have an unexplained fear of taking showers. 

But that’s just a small price to pay.  Because now, finally, instead of fighting about diapers, parents could have fights about whose turn it is to put the baby in the dishwasher. 

That said, he should have also won the Peace prize.

The device isn’t on the market yet, so we still have to work out the details in regards to putting the baby in there for after Shabbos.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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