Not all scientific research is about tackling the universe's great problems, in fact most of it doesn't. The Ig Nobel awards celebrate the smaller, quirkier bits of research and a team of Australian scientists have just picked up the Ig Nobel award for showing that people just don't bother reading the instructions.
Let's face it, nobody reads the manual. Okay, pilots experiencing engine failure might pull out the manual to work out how to stop their plane from becoming a missile but the rest of us tend to just fumble through.
That's not speculation either, Thea Blackler and her team from Queensland University of Technology showed exactly that in their 2014 research.
All those extra features and odd knobs on complicated devices are going unused because people don't read the manual, and when they do they get irritated. They're an article of last resort.
Spending the time to research this may seem silly but working out new gadgets and refusing to resort to documentation is a very human experience. That's why Blackler won the Ig Nobel for Literature.
The 28th First Annual Ig Nobel awards were awarded earlier this week to celebrate science that makes you laugh and then think. The awards are a parody of the more famous Nobel awards with prizes given in ten categories that change from year to year.
Every year, the scientific humour magainse Annals of Improbable Research holds a gala event at Harvard where past Nobel laureates hand out the awards to their Ig Nobel counterparts.
The fun doesn't end with people not reading the manual. This year's Ig Nobel in Economics went to researchers that showed that workers that use voodoo dolls on their bosses feel better because “their injustice perceptions are deactivated”.
If you've ever considered cannibalism for the nutritional value, don't. Human flesh lacks the calorie density of animal flesh in this now Ig Nobel winning research.
“Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Calibre, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope” won Akira Horiuchi the Medical Education prize although no bonus award was given for the fantastic title.
You can watch this year's event here.
Here is the full list of this year's winners:
- Anthropology: Tomas Pesson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Lund University "Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors"
- Biology: Paul Becher, Sebastian Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger and Peter Witzgall "The Scent of the Fly"
- Chemistry: Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, Regional Government of the Azores "Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces"
- Economics: Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris and Lisa Keeping "Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice"
- Literature: Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, Queensland University of Technology "Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products"
- Medical Education: Akira Horiuchi, Showa Inan General Hospital "Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy"
- Medicine: Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, Michigan State University "Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster"
- Nutrition: James Cole, University of Brighton "Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic"
- Peace: Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge, Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Jaime Sanmartin, Constanza Calatayud and Beatriz Alamar, University of Valencia "Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment"
- Reproductive Medicine: John Barry, Bruce Blank and Michel Boileau "Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps"