IgNobel 2021 awards research on dampening beards, cockroaches and chewed gum | Science and Health

Beards are not only cool and trendy – they can also be an evolutionary development to help protect a man’s delicate facial bones from being punched in the face.

That’s the conclusion of a trio of University of Utah scientists who are among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes, the Nobel Prize parodies that honor – or perhaps dishonor, depending on your point of view – strange scientific discoveries.

Winners of the 31st annual Ig Nobels, announced this Thursday, included researchers who have figured out how to better control cockroaches on US Navy submarines; animal scientists who have analyzed whether it is safer to carry a rhino upside down in the air; and a team that discovered how disgusting that discarded gum stuck to your shoe is.

For the second year in a row, the ceremony was a pre-recorded digital event of approximately 90 minutes because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, said Marc Abrahams, editor of Annals of Improbable Research magazine, the event’s main sponsor.

Image of the trophy won by winner of the 29th edition of the IgNobel award, in 2019 — Photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

While disappointing in many ways, because half the fun of a live ceremony is the noisy audience participation, the ceremony has retained many traditions. Among them, real Nobel laureates announcing the awards and the world premiere of a mini opera called “A Bridge Between People” about children who literally build little suspension bridges to unite two angry adults.

No faces were punched for the beard study published in the scientific journal Integrative Organismal Biology.

Instead, University of Utah scientists Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway, and David Carrier used an epoxy fiber compound to simulate human bone and sheepskin (sometimes with wool, sometimes already shorn) to act as the skin. human. They then threw weights on them.

The wool sample absorbed more energy than the trimmed samples.

“If the same applies to human facial hair, having a full beard can help protect vulnerable regions of the facial skeleton from damaging blows like the jaw,” they said. “Presumably, full beards also reduce injuries, lacerations and bruises to the skin and muscles of the face.”

It’s obvious that those discarded gum found on sidewalks around the world are pretty revolting.

Researchers at a Spanish university have determined that chewed gum that has been stuck on the sidewalk for three months is full of nasty bacteria.

It sounds like a silly study, but as always, there was some method to the madness.

“Our findings have implications for a wide range of disciplines, including forensic science, contagious disease control or waste chewing gum bioremediation,” wrote Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú and Manuel Porcar of the University of Valencia in his paper, which was published on Nature.com.

A team of US Navy researchers won by finding a cheaper and more effective way to control cockroaches in submarines. The 1971 study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology found that traditional methods, such as fumigating carboxyls and using the pesticide malathion, were not good enough.

They found that using the pesticide dichlorvos was less expensive and more effective.

Organizers of the Ig Nobels plan to hold next year’s ceremony again in their traditional home at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, Abrahams said, but that depends on whether the pandemic is under control and what kind of travel restrictions exist around the world.

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