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Cannibalism is a low-calorie diet, weird science award winner finds

Tongue-in-cheek awards honour the nutritional benefits of CANNIBALISM and riding rollercoasters to treat kidney stones

  • The Ig Nobel Prizes yesterday awarded weird and wonderful scientific research
  • Winning studies included a self-colonoscopy and the ability to smell a fly in wine 
  • The awards are run by a satirical science journal and held at Harvard University

People could lose weight by eating other humans because the cannibal diet is lower in calories, research has found.

Another study explored whether postage stamps could be used to measure erections, and another revealed that wine experts can smell whether or not there is a fly in their drink.

These are just some of the bizarre – but real – scientific studies crowned as winners at the joke Ig Nobel Prize ceremony this year.

The annual awards ceremony exists to celebrate the weird and wonderful discoveries being made by scientists around the world. 

And this year’s winner in the Medicine category was a study from 2016 on the effects of riding a roller-coaster to try and dislodge kidney stones.

The prize winners were rewarded with a whopping $10 trillion – but their winnings were paid in Zimbabwean dollars and amounted to about four US dollars each. 

Awards were presented by real Nobel Prize winners during a ceremony at Harvard University yesterday.

Award winners at the Ig Nobel Prizes are traditionally interrupted 60 seconds into their acceptance speech by a young girl called Miss Sweetie Poo who says ‘Please stop, I’m bored’ (Pictured: Professor David Wartinger who studied the effect of roller-coasters on kidney stones is interrupted by Dorothea Hartig at yesterday’s Harvard University ceremony)

The 10 categories for the Ig Nobel Prizes all match the categories in the real Nobel Prize ceremonies, which honour the most outstanding work in science each year.

They are Medicine, Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Medical Education, Literature, Nutrition, Peace, Reproductive Medicine, and Economics. 

This year was the 28th year of the annual spoof awards and saw winners travel from around the world.

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During winners’ acceptance speeches they are traditionally given 60 seconds before being interrupted by an eight-year-old girl named Miss Sweetie Poo saying ‘Please stop, I’m bored.’ 

A winning study by researchers in Michigan, USA, found riding on roller-coasters could be an effective way to treat kidney stones.

When a patient reported to Professor David Wartinger that he had managed to dislodge his kidney stones while on a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, the doctor decided to research whether it was a coincidence or not.

Using a model, he discovered that the ride Big Thunder Mountain could help with the painful kidney condition because the side-to-side and up-and-down shaking could work the stones out of the organ. 

Studies entered into the Ig Nobel Prizes are all genuine, serious scientific studies which have been published in journals, but are chosen for being so out-there.

Other winners included findings that chimpanzees imitate people, saliva can be used to clean surfaces, and a way to give yourself a colonoscopy. 

The latter research was done by a Japanese doctor who invented a way to give yourself a colonoscopy because people in his country refuse to let doctors do them.

Dr Akira Horiuchi told the BBC that, while the trial seems funny, it is rooted in a serious need to try and cut down bowel cancer.

Dr Akira Horiuchi, from Japan, won the Medical Education award for his work on developing a way for people to give themselves colonoscopies, which he hopes will improve the diagnosis of bowel cancer

He said: ‘People, especially in Japan, are afraid of colonoscopy and they do not want to undergo colonoscopy. 

‘So the number of people who die from colorectal cancer is increasing. 

‘I do this research to make colonoscopy easier and more comfortable, so fewer people will die.’ 

The awards are organised by satirical science magazine the Annals of Improbable Research.


The Ig Nobel Prizes are given in the same 10 categories as real Nobel Prizes. This year’s winners were as follows:

Medicine: US scientists won for their paper on using roller-coaster rides at Walt Disney World as a treatment for kidney stones, finding the rides could speed up how quickly they are passed.

The paper was titled ‘Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster’ and published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.      

Anthropology: Researchers from Sweden, Romania, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Indonesia, Italy and the UK won for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.

The paper was titled ‘Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors’ and published in the journal Primates.

Biology: Scientists from Sweden, Colombia, Germany, France and Switzerland won for demonstrating that wine experts can identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.

The paper was called ‘The Scent of the Fly’ and published in bioRxiv. 

Chemistry: Portugese researchers won for measuring how well saliva works for cleaning dirty surfaces.

Their study was titled ‘Human Saliva as a a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces’ and published in Studies in Conversation.  

Medical Education: A Japanese doctor won for his report on how to give yourself a colonoscopy while sitting in a chair – reportedly inspired by a rising rate of bowel cancer in Japan because people refuse to have colonoscopies.

His paper was called ‘Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope’ and published in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 

Literature: Researchers from Australia and El Salvador won for a study documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual. It was titled ‘Life is Too Short to RTFM’ (RTFM means ‘read the f***ing manual’).

Their paper was called ‘Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products’ and published in  Interacting With Computers. 

Nutrition: Researchers from Zimbabwe, Tanzania and the UK won for  calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.

The paper was called ‘Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic’ and published in Scientific Reports.

Peace: Spanish and Colombian scientists won for measuring how often, why and the effects of people shouting and swearing while driving cars.  

The paper was called ‘Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment’ and published in the Journal of Sociology and Anthropology. 

Reproductive Medicine: Researchers from the US, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, India and Bangladesh won for testing whether the function of the penis could be measured using postage stamps.

The paper was entitled ‘Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps’ and was published in Urology.

Economics: Scientists from Canada, China, Singapore and the US won for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.

Their study was titled ‘Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice’ and was published in The Leadership Quarterly.

Source: Annals of Improbable Research 

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