How China's Belt and Road Initiative could benefit from Ig Nobel Prize-winning research

gathered, Boris Johnson, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, this year’s prizes, analysis, discovered, offenders, testing, studying, the other, why men wear beards, found, face-recognition technology

As world leaders gathered this week at the UN General Assembly in New York, I wonder how many recall that nine of them were winners last year of the Ig Nobel Prize for Medical Education “for using the Covid-19 pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists or doctors”?

They included British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former US president Donald Trump. Unfortunately, they were not Ig Nobel winners again this year, for having a medium- to long-term effect on life and death.

Perhaps that is because the Ig Nobel Prizes, published annually in the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, are intended “first to make you laugh, and then to make you think”. There is little in their Covid-19 legacy that we can laugh about.

Nevertheless, this year’s prizes were full of hilarity, and reminders that the route to knowledge is often a circuitous and serendipitous one.

Among them was a biology prize for cat-human communication, and a chemistry prize for analysis of the air inside cinemas to see how the odours produced reflect the levels of violence, sex and bad language in the film being screened.

The medicine prize went to a team that discovered that sex acts as a powerful nasal decongestant for at least an hour after orgasm, though I should issue a prize of my own for anyone who can tell me why this knowledge might be useful.

The ecology prize went to analysis by a team from the University of Valencia of the microbiome of chewing gum scraped from the underside of chairs and tables. Believe it or not, the gum retained the DNA of the chewer for quite a long time, perhaps suggesting that we might one day be able to use the information to track down and punish the offenders.

The transportation prize went to a team in Namibia testing whether it was better to transport anaesthetised rhinos by hanging them upside down by their ankles, or laying them on their sides. It seems it is better to hang them by their ankles. Similar experiments are now planned on hippos, giraffes and buffalo.

Prizes for physics and kinetics were awarded to two separate teams – one studying how people absorbed in their smartphones manage to avoid collisions while walking, and the other on why pedestrians sometimes do indeed crash into each other.

gathered, Boris Johnson, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, this year’s prizes, analysis, discovered, offenders, testing, studying, the other, why men wear beards, found, face-recognition technology

Pedestrians check their smartphones while walking in March 2020. One of the research teams awarded an Ig Nobel Prize developed a collision-avoidance model based on analysis of how pedestrians manage to avoid crashing into each other. Photo: James Wendlinger

The prize for peace was awarded to a team examining why men wear beards. While Charles Darwin’s view in The Descent of Man was that beards were “an ornament to attract females”, the team concluded that they helped to protect us in fights.

Noting that beards only grow on men, they suggested that the beards grew to soften the blows during the inevitable testosterone-driven competition for mates.

To test the idea, and because of ethical problems with using bearded humans, the team stuck sheep fleeces onto epoxy “bone”, and then whacked them repeatedly with a 4.7kg weight. The conclusion? Beards protect vulnerable bones in the face from forceful strikes.

Personally, I am not convinced. If beards were so essential to self-defence, why do so few boxers – or bouncers – sport beards? And if Muslim men and Sephardic Jews tend to grow beards, does this suggest they are more pugilistic than comparatively beardless Asian men?

gathered, Boris Johnson, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, this year’s prizes, analysis, discovered, offenders, testing, studying, the other, why men wear beards, found, face-recognition technology

The Ig Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to researchers who found that “human beards protect vulnerable regions of the facial skeleton from damaging strikes”. Photo: Shutterstock

The economics prize probably has the most profound practical value. Pavlo Blavatskyy at the Montpellier Business School found that the obesity of a country’s politicians is a good indicator of corruption in that country.

Chinese researchers had measured political corruption in their country by counting the import value of luxury Swiss wristwatches between 1993-2013, but found that the rise of social media had undermined the effectiveness of this measure. Blavatskyy opted to measure how fat leaders were.

He gathered photos of 299 cabinet ministers from 15 post-Soviet economies and then used an algorithm to measure each politician’s body mass index. The study found that 96 of the 299 top officials were “severely obese”. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan fared the worst. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index placed these among the world’s most corrupt economies.

The three economies with the lowest median body mass index – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – were also recognised by other corruption indices as less corrupt. The study concluded: “Our median estimated ministers’ body mass index is highly correlated with all five conventional measures of perceived corruption” and “political corruption is literally visible from the photographs of top public officials”.

It mischievously occurred to me that Blavatskyy’s research – perhaps combined with China’s controversial face-recognition technology – would be handy for Chinese investors along the Belt and Road economies across Central Asia, who would just need to update the average body mass of government officials to gauge whether corruption is getting worse, or on the mend.

Sadly for this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners, pandemic travel restrictions meant that the award ceremony had to be virtual for the second consecutive year. Trophies had to be self-assembled from a PDF printout.

As usual, the cash prize was a counterfeit Zimbabwean 10 trillion dollar note – an iconic measure of how catastrophic the consequence of corruption and economic mismanagement can be, which should provide another sobering warning to world leaders gathered for the UN General Assembly. It is not just with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists or doctors, and we now have the “Blavatskyy model” to measure it.

David Dodwell researches and writes about global, regional and Hong Kong challenges from a Hong Kong point of view

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Over 102 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in India: Govt

(Image: Reuters) Over 102 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have so far been administered in the country, including more than 70 lakh doses administered on Saturday, the Union health ministry said. ... Read more »

COVID-19: Travel rules relaxed as cheaper lateral flow tests replace PCRs from today

The change comes ahead of the half-term holidays and offers a "huge boost to the travel industry", according to the health secretary, Sajid Javid. Read more »

CIDCO to provide water connection to buildings sans OCs in certain pockets of Navi Mumbai int'l airport rehab area

Image Courtesy: Cidco CIDCO, the city planning agency of the Maharashtra government, has decided to provide water connection to buildings that are yet to obtain the Occupancy Certificate (OC) located ... Read more »

PhonePe withdraws petition against BharatPe's Postpe, to file fresh suit

The PhonePe app (Representative image: Twitter/@PhonePe_) Fintech major PhonePe has withdrawn its petition against BharatPe’s Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) Postpe platform which had alleged violation of PhonePe’s trademark and ... Read more »

Cryptocurrency Prices Today on October 24: Bitcoin slightly falls, Ethereum surges over 2%

Cryptocurrency (Representative image) Cryptocurrency prices continue to be a mix of green and red on October 24. The global cryptocurrency market cap is Rs 191.25 lakh crores, a 1.10 percent ... Read more »

Petrol, diesel prices on October 24: Fuel rates increased for 5th straight day

Petrol and diesel prices differ from state to state depending on the incidence of local taxes. (Representative image) Petrol and diesel prices were increased for the fifth consecutive day to touch ... Read more »

Terrorist incidents have declined in Kashmir since August 5, 2019: Amit Shah

Amit Shah On his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday defended the Centre’s decision saying that it has ... Read more »

Centre asks states/UTs to increase coverage of second dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Almost 15 million Americans have received a dose of the J&J vaccine, and nearly 70 million are fully vaccinated with Moderna. (Image: AFP) The Centre on Saturday urged states/UTs to ... Read more »

BharatPe claims PhonePe ‘turned turtle' in court on its stand against usage of ‘Pe'

The PhonePe app (Representative image: Twitter/@PhonePe_) The courtroom clash between digital payment players PhonePe and BharatPe has now turned into a war of words with BharatPe calling PhonePe’s statement on ... Read more »

Oil state Saudi Arabia wants to be climate neutral by 2060

The target expressly only applies to greenhouse gas emissions within our own national borders. According to United Nations rules, the country does not have to count the emissions resulting from ... Read more »

BJP govt has failed the country: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. File image. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged that the government has failed the country with farmers upset, inflation soaring and the borders witnessing clashes. ... Read more »

Terrorists adopting new tactics because government's success in J&K has baffled them: Ram Madhav

Ram Madhav RSS leader Ram Madhav said here that terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir were using new tactics to spread fear because they were “baffled” by the government’s success in ... Read more »

PM Modi says entire world looking up to India for its vaccine drive success, jab makers credit his leadership

PM Modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the entire world is looking up to India in the backdrop of the success of its COVID-19 vaccination drive and hailed the efforts ... Read more »

Congress leaders to meet on October 26 to chalk out strategy for upcoming assembly polls

In the first phase of the ‘Prashikshan Se Parakram Mahabhiyan’, the Congress had trained about 25,000 of its workers. (Representative image) Ahead of upcoming assembly elections in five states, top ... Read more »

To address the mental health challenges of children and women, schools must reopen: Vikram Patel

Vikram Patel, professor, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Image source – Harvard University Social restrictions, closure of schools and businesses, loss of ... Read more »

Lottery Sambad Result October 24: 'Dear Bangasree Ichamati' lottery winners to be announced at 4 pm

Results of the West Bengal State Lottery Sambad ‘Dear Bangasree Damodar’ are announced every Saturday at 4 pm. Lottery Sambad Result: The West Bengal State Lottery Department will announce the results of its ... Read more »

DFC to finance $50 million to Biological E to expand COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity

Representative image (Reuters) The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will finance USD 50 million to Biological E Limited to increase its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity. A media invitation from ... Read more »

Climate map shows three million homes that could be flooded by 2050

Map shows areas in Portsmouth and Great Yarmouth in danger of flooding by 2050. (Gamma) A new climate change flood map has predicted three million homes could become unsellable if ... Read more »

Former vaccine chief returns to NHS in renewed drive to deliver booster jabs

Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes a dose of the pfizer vaccine (Matt Dunham/PA) (PA Wire) The former head of England’s coronavirus vaccine delivery drive has been drafted back into the ... Read more »

Flemish cows and pigs also have to believe it

As in the Netherlands, a reduction in livestock is also politically very sensitive in Belgium. The report of the so-called Flemish Climate Follow-up Panel describes a scenario in which the ... Read more »

Deal on Joe Biden's $2 trillion plan edges closer; Kamala Harris is 'confident'

Joe Biden addressing UN General Assembly (Image: Twitter/@ANI) Adeal within reach, President Joe Biden and Congress’ top Democrats edged close to sealing their giant domestic legislation, though the informal deadline appeared to slip as ... Read more »

Industry demands leather park scheme to boost growth

Representative Image Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images The Council for Leather Exports (CLE) on Saturday urged the government to bring a leather park scheme for boosting production amid expectations ... Read more »

Amit Shah's J&K visit was necessary in aftermath of recent killings: Farooq Abdullah

Farooq Abdullah National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah said Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir was imperative in the backdrop of the recent targeted killings of ... Read more »

India needs to address consequences of instability in neighbourhood: Gen Bipin Rawat

Army chief General Bipin Rawat Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat stressed that the country needs to ensure that the consequences of instability in its neighbourhood are addressed. He ... Read more »

Daily Voice | Gaurav Garg of CapitalVia expects gap up opening in RIL, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank on October 25

Gaurav garg Gaurav Garg, Head of Research at CapitalVia Global Research said Q2FY22 earnings season has largely been in line with the market expectations, however, what is concerning is the ... Read more »

What is value investing? Amit Premchandani of UTI AMC explains

Representative Image What is Value? In common market parlance the term ‘Value’ has come to denote cheap valuations based on multiples such as low price to earnings or price to ... Read more »

Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones tests positive for Covid after attending celebrity charity event

The dinner featured musical performances by Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and the Jonas Brothers. Sir Paul McCartney also attended. Read more »

‘Facebook staff sounded the alarm well before Capitol storming'

Well before the Capitol storming on January 6, many Facebook employees have sounded the alarm about the increase in potentially dangerous, incendiary messages on the platform after the US presidential ... Read more »

Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, targets net zero emissions by 2060

Although the kingdom will aim to reduce its own emissions, it will continue to aggressively pump and export fossil fuels to Asia and other regions. Read more »

Lyft says more than 4,000 sexual assaults occurred on its trips from 2017 to 2019

More than 1,800 people were sexually assaulted during Lyft rides in 2019, about a 65 percent increase from 2017, the company says in a new report. Read more »

S Korean shipbuilding giant shifts out of China

South Korean shipbuilding giant Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) has recently announced the closure of its plant Ningbo in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang after allegedly agreeing to hand over ... Read more »

Wealthy Fisherman's Friend businesswoman (91) leaves fortune behind for British town after death

41 million poundsA wealthy British businesswoman left a fortune to her hometown of Fleetwood in England after her death at the beginning of this year. The 91-year-old Doreen Lofthouse, mastermind ... Read more »

More than 4000 victims of sexual violence at taxi service Lyft

The company faces several lawsuits next year in which female passengers will sue the company for sexual assault and rape by taxi drivers who drive for Lyft. These kinds of ... Read more »

Dependence and mistrust: Russia-Europe relations sharpened by gas

Now the situation is reversed. The global economy has picked up quickly and demand for energy has skyrocketed. A cold spring also meant that stocks were not replenished. Van der ... Read more »

‘New method of rent assessment is illegal, tenants suffer'

The Rent Assessment Committee has been struggling with major backlogs for years and since last year the Committee has therefore been inviting less and less tenants and landlords to appear ... Read more »

US budget deficit hits USD 2.77 trillion in 2021, 2nd highest

The U.S. budget deficit totaled USD2.77 trillion for 2021, the second-highest on record but an improvement from the all-time high of USD3.13 trillion reached in 2020. The deficits in both ... Read more »

Regional airline SkyWest cancels hundreds of flights

SkyWest Airlines, which operates many flights for the nation’s biggest airlines, canceled about 1,000 flights Thursday and Friday because of what it called an internal technical issue. The airline said ... Read more »

26-year-old uni student builds $15m empire

When Iris Smit appeared on the TV show Shark Tank, she turned down a $300,000 investment offer for 25 per cent of her three-month-old business and the gamble paid off, ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic