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Ig Nobels go to beer goggle, onion and Enya studies

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By The Los Angeles Times
Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
 

Let's face it: The Nobel Prizes aren't for everyone. That's why we celebrate the Ig Nobel Prizes, which were handed out on Thursday night at Harvard.

Among this year's winners were scientists who discovered that alcohol makes people think they're attractive and that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely she is to stand up.

These awards are handed out by the folks who publish the Annals of Improbable Research. Though the discoveries they recognize can seem obvious, inconsequential or just plain goofy, the awards do have a purpose: To “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

For the first time, the winners received cash prizes — $10 trillion, but in Zimbabwe dollars, or about 4 bucks.

Here are some of the achievements for 2013:

The Medicine Prize was awarded to a group of Japanese researchers who determined that mice who got heart transplants survived longer if Mozart rather than Enya was playing in the background during their surgeries. The beneficial music seemed to stimulate production of helpful immune system cells. Their results were published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

The Psychology Prize went to European researchers who figured out that “beer goggles” not only can be trained on oneself, but also take effect even when a person is not intoxicated, but thinks he or she is. This team conducted two experiments that found that the more alcohol a person thinks they have consumed, the more highly they rated themselves for attractiveness, intelligence and cleverness. Their study, titled ”Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” appeared in the British Journal of Psychology.

The Chemistry Prize probed the age-old mystery of why onions make people cry. The winning team, from Japan, showed the plant biochemistry at work involved an undiscovered enzyme called lachrymatory-factor synthase. If onions could be engineered without that enzyme, it may be possible for them to retain their flavor and nutritional value without causing tears, they reported in the journal Nature.

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