Every year, I write an article about the Ig Nobel Prizes – a real, live ceremony wherein mostly scientists receive awards for studies that sound silly, but actually have awesome applications for real life, if the scientists will someday figure out what those are.
For instance, the Ig Nobel prize for Acoustics this year went to scientists in Austria for asking the question no one else was asking: What would it sound like if we gave an alligator helium?
I tried reading the reasons they did this, and as far as I can tell, it has a lot to do with alligator shidduchim. Alligators, when they’re looking for a shidduch, listen for each other’s voices to determine how big the other one is. I don’t know how much of a difference size makes in alligators, because we’re talking about length. It’s not like height, where one spouse is always going to have to crouch down for pictures.
Personally, I think they had an alligator and they had helium, and they said, “Why not? This will get people back into zoos! Forget feedings; at 3:00 we give the gorillas helium.”
I mean, we know that helium changes human voices, and we haven’t done anything with this application in 6,000 years. Shidduchim or otherwise.
Meanwhile, the prize for Entomology this year went to Richard Vetter, for collecting evidence that many entomologists are afraid of spiders.
According to the article I read, Vetter first noticed the aversion during his career as a researcher at the University of California: “When I pulled out a live brown recluse spider sealed in a bag at lunch one day,” he says, “I looked up to find that an entomologist colleague had disappeared down the hall.””
He just had it in a bag at lunch? Maybe he was the problem.
It’s just weird that these guys are not averse to any bugs except spiders. What is it that they’re afraid of?
According to the Vetter’s research, it might be about their “fast, unpredictable movements and their many legs.” As opposed to other insects, with their slow, predictable movements and their few legs.
“For these people, two more legs make a big difference,” Vetter writes.
Two legs do make a difference. I mean, aren’t you scared of things with four legs? Bears have four legs and you’re scared of them. It’s the legs.
Basically, everyone decides what is an acceptable number of legs to them, and more than that is scary.
Another thing the entomologists don’t like about spiders is, quote, “the way they show up unexpectedly.” As opposed to insects, who jingle when they walk. You hear a clip clop.
What do you want the spiders to do, call first?
The Physics prize this year went to researcher Ivan Maksymov from Ukraine, for “determining what happens to the shape of a live earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at a high frequency.”
Basically, it looks like there are multiple earthworms. Also, your siblings will run away shrieking, and your mother will yell.
Okay, so Maksymov was studying the phenomenon wherein if you vibrate a pool of water above critical frequency, you get a wave pattern on the surface. So Maksymov reasoned that since many organisms are mostly made of liquid, they should experience wave patterns under the right conditions.
So far, we’re doing great.
Maksymov chose earthworms for the experiment because they “have flexible skin and a liquid-filled body cavity.” Also, you can easily get your hands on them during lockdown by just digging in your yard. It was this or spiders.
And earthworms are a weird animal in the first place, because they’re the only animal where, before saying the species, we have to say what planet they’re from. What other worms have we come across?
“The research could be relevant to our understanding of how nerve impulses move through the body,” he said.
It will also determine whether sitting in one of those massage chairs too long will turn you into a puddle.
So he put a bunch of earthworms on top of a pulsating bass speaker for about 30 seconds, and lo and behold, they were eaten by spiders.
Okay, no. Dr. Maksymov emphasizes that no worms were harmed in his study, and that he ended up returning them safely to the ground, where they went on to live happy, although somewhat hard-of-hearing, lives.
MRS. WORM: “Where have you been?”
Also, he didn’t want the worms to tense up when the music turned on, so he gave them something to drink. And by “something to drink”, I mean exactly what you think I mean. Vodka.
How do you feed an earthworm vodka, though? Where’s the mouth? I don’t even know. How do you know which end you’re sticking in the vodka? So they stuck the whole thing in – just soaked the worms in it.
MRS. WORM: “Where have you been? You smell like vodka!”
“Next up,” the researchers say, “we’re going to try this with elephants!”
They’re going to need a bigger bowl for the vodka.
Meanwhile, the Management Prize this year went to five hitmen in China.
As the story goes, there was a businessman named Mr. Tan who wanted to kill his competitor, Mr. Wei. So he hired a hitman named Xi Guang-An to kill Mr. Wei for 2 million yuan, or $282,000.
Xi accepted the money, and then went home and said, “Wait a minute. I’m not going to kill him! That’s illegal!”
So Xi subcontracted the job to a second hitman – Mo Tian-Xiang – and of course pocketed some of the money, as a finder’s fee. And Mo went home and said, “Wait a minute. I’m not going to kill him! That’s illegal!”
So Mo hired a third guy -- Yang Kang-Sheng. And of course Mo kept some of the money.
Yang then hired a 4th hitman, named Yang Guang-Sheng (Not related?), who hired a 5th hitman -- Ling Xian Si.
By the time this got down to Ling, he was getting paid 100,000 yuan to do the job, which comes out to roughly $14,000.
And then thought about it and decided that he wasn’t going to kill someone for less than it would cost to buy a low-end car. This is literally the most Jewish hitman story I’ve ever heard.
So Ling decided to take Mr. Wei out for coffee. And he said, “Listen, I was hired to take you out,” and Mr. Wei said, “We are out.”
(Okay, he didn’t say that. They were speaking Chinese.)
“…but I’m not going to do it.”
“Because I’m getting paid like $14,000.”
So then Ling said, “Listen, if you want, I could just not kill you, but make everyone think I did.” So Wei agreed to meet up later and pose, gagged and bound, for a photo that Ling could then take back to Yang #2, who would take it to Yang #1, and so on, so everyone could get paid.
And then Wei went home and said, “Wait a minute…” and he reported the whole thing to the police.
Anyway, the five hitmen won the Ig Nobel Prize for Business Management. Also, they’re all in jail. So none of these men could actually come in to accept the award, but thanks to the current climate, neither could any of the other winners. The whole ceremony was done remotely this year. So the committee just sent the award to the first guy, who sent it to the second guy, and so on, with the last guy just throwing it out.
And finally, the Peace Prize this year went to the governments of India and Pakistan, “for having their diplomats ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.”
I often do this on Purim. Especially Friday Purim.
For generations now, these two countries have been at war. In the past, this war has involved “high-stakes negotiation and the ever-present threat of nuclear war.” And now it has escalated to: pranks.
Apparently, they both came up with the same prank.
Or not. The doorbell wars began when the bell of the Indian deputy high commissioner to Pakistan was rung at 3 AM, according to a report. The Indians did not answer the door, but they believe Pakistani security agents were responsible.
A few days later, the doorbell of the Pakistani deputy high commissioner to India was rung at 3 a.m., in what Pakistan believes was retaliation. Or the same pranksters.
Personally, I think all wars should be fought this way. Think of what it can do for the Middle East. Maybe send some meshulachim over to the Arabs if that’s all it takes. Also, if you don’t like something the president said… Though that would be tough, because there are cameras and guards and I think lawn sprinklers. You’d have to say, “No, I’m not coming to hurt anyone; I was just going to ring his doorbell.” And the dogs would say, “Oh, okay.” Or they’d say, “You think if you rang the doorbell the president would answer the door? He has people for that!” And you’d say, “Okay, so I’ll say, “Can you please get the president? It’s urgent.” And then when they go get him, you’ll run away.
And it wasn’t just doorbells. Pakistan is now saying that one of their diplomats in India was deliberately blocked in traffic by a slow-moving vehicle.
In that case, I think I’m the victim of this too! What about wrong-number calls at all hours from the same three Hispanic numbers?
Next up, stay tuned to the news there for reports involving thumbtacks on seats, salt/sugar mix-ups, and an airhorn behind the doorknob. And maybe pumping each other’s houses full of helium. And alligators.