Donald trumps scientists to win his Nobel prize

The Ig Nobel award. The prize is a 10 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note. Picture: AP

The Ig Nobel award. The prize is a 10 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note. Picture: AP

Published Sep 19, 2020


Washington - Donald Trump has won his Nobel prize.

However, the US president is unlikely to boast about the Ig Nobel prize he, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin were awarded on Thursday night for Medical Education.

They shared the prize with Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for “using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can”.

“These are all individuals who realised that their judgement is

better than the judgement of people who have been studying this their entire lives, and were more insistent about it,” said Marc Abrahams, master of ceremonies.

Abrahams tried to reach out to the world leaders to accept their awards, with no luck.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday’s 30th annual Ig Nobel ceremony was a 75-minute pre-recorded virtual affair instead of the usual live event at Harvard University.

“It was a nightmare, and it took us months, but we got it done,” said Abrahams.

An anthropologist who tested an urban legend by fashioning a knife out of frozen human faeces, and a man who found that spiders – oddly – give scientists who study insects the heebie-jeebies, are among the 2020 winners.

Metin Eren has been fascinated since high school by the story of an Inuit man in Canada who made a knife out of his own excrement. The story has been told and retold, but is it true? Eren and his colleagues decided to find out.

Eren, an assistant professor of anthropology at Kent State University in Ohio and co-director of the university’s Experimental Archaeology Lab, used real human faeces frozen to -50C° and filed to a sharp edge. He then tried to cut meat with it.

“The poop knives failed miserably,” he said. “There’s not a lot of basis empirically for this fantastic story.

The study is a little gross but makes an important point: “evidence and fact checking are vital”, he said.

Richard Vetter won an Ig Nobel for his paper looking at why people who spend their lives studying insects are creeped out by spiders.

His paper, “Arachnophobic Entomologists: Why Two Legs Make all the Difference”, appeared in the the journal American Entomologist in 2013.

Vetter, a retired research associate and spider specialist who worked in the entomology department at the University of California Riverside for 32 years, found during the course of his work that many insect lovers hate spiders.

He found that many bug lovers had had a negative experience with a spider. The fact that spiders are often hairy, fast, silent and have all those creepy eyes freaks out entomologists, he said.

The prize is a 10-trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe, roughly the equivalent of 40 cents US (R6.50).

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