Bug Busting and Cinema Sniffing: Congratulations to This Year’s Ig Nobel Prize Winners
Each year, the Annals of Improbable Research places its tongue firmly in cheek and awards its ‘Ig Nobel Prize’ to the top scientific research of the year that “made people laugh, then think.” And this year did not disappoint.
Of particular note was this year’s winner for the Chemistry Award: a chemical analysis of movie theater air to determine if the odors – formally known as volatile organic compounds – given off by the audience related to screen representations of bad language, antisocial behavior, sex, violence or drug use. Titled “Proof of Concept Study: Testing Human Volatile Organic Compounds as Tools for Age Classification of Films, it was conducted by a team of researchers from Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece, Cyprus and Austria who presumably had to limit the sales of popcorn, pretzel nuggets and Junior Mints at the cinemas (as well as make sure the floors had been recently cleaned) to get an accurate olfactory reading. As always, the Adesis team congratulates the Ig Nobel winners for their ingenuity, creativity and stamina to tolerate repeat showings of “Dolittle.”
Though not officially in the Chemistry category, this year’s Entomology Prize, awarded to the U.S. Navy Disease Vector Ecology and Control Center, was worthy of note for its age (the study is 50 years old) and its documentation of the use of the chemical dichlorvos – a highly toxic organophosphate that the EU banned in 1998 – to rid submarines of cockroaches. There’s never been a better reason to be glad you weren’t stationed aboard a U.S. Navy submarine in the early 1970s.
While we at Adesis are unlikely to be found sniffing movie theaters (for scientific purposes only, of course) or working as submersible exterminators, we’re all for anything that engages people in the work of chemists, even if it’s at the risk of a good chuckle. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, and thanks for keeping us smiling.