Bee stings, research that makes you go 'huh?' win Ig Nobels Awards
A Cornell University graduate student allowed honeybees to sting him in 25 places. A trio of linguists found that almost every language in the world uses the word "huh." It is used to clear up confusion in a conversation.
They are among the winners of this year's Ig Nobels. The awards honor humorous scientific achievement.
Michael Smith estimates he was stung about 200 times during his 2012 honeybee study. He said two of the most painful places to get stung are the nostril and the upper lip.
"A sting to the nostril is so painful it's like a whole body experience," he said.
Other winners honored Sept. 17 at the 25th annual ceremony at Harvard University included a team of researchers. They found that corporate CEOs take less professional risk if directly affected by natural disasters as children.
Real Nobel laureates handed out the prizes and each winner received a cash award. It is a Zimbabwean 10 trillion-dollar bill. That sounds like a lot but is about equal to a couple of U.S. dollars.
Smith shared the Ig Nobel for physiology and entomology with Justin Schmidt. The latter is a professor at the University of Arizona who created a pain scale for insect stings.
His advice is not to get stung by the tarantula hawk. It is a nasty looking wasp. It is found in the Southwestern U.S. The insect has a stinger about a quarter-inch long.
"The sting is entirely nontoxic. But hurts like the bejesus," Schmidt said.
Mark Dingemanse and two colleagues won the Ig Nobel for literature. They are from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Netherlands. They figured out that the word "huh" is used in languages around the world. The languages include some that are uncommon.
"A system for fixing misunderstandings is clearly a crucial part of language," he said. "'Huh?' is one element of this system. It's the basic error signal people fall back on if all else fails."
Raghu Rau is a professor of finance at the University of Cambridge. He and his colleagues won for their study that found business leaders more directly affected by natural disasters as children took less risk during their careers.
Rau uses Apple as an example. The late CEO, Steve Jobs, lived through a deadly landslide near his home in San Francisco as a child. He ran the company carefully. His replacement, Tim Cook, witnessed few fatalities. That's despite seeing regular tornadoes while growing up in Alabama. Cook has made more risky business decisions.
"Think of yourself as a member of a board of directors. When you try to hire a CEO, do you want a risk taker or not?" Rau said.
As usual, the winners were thrilled with the honor.
"Sometimes these crazy things provide a lot of insight," said Schmidt, the bug guy.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the cash award a Zimbabwean 10 trillion-dollar bill?
Write your answers in the comments section below