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article imageScientists win 'Ig Nobel' prize for dung beetle navigation

By Anne Sewell     Sep 14, 2013 in Science
A Swedish research team has won a coveted "Ig Nobel" prize - awarded by Harvard University for quirky discoveries "that make people laugh and then think" - for finding dung beetles can navigate their way home in the dark using the Milky Way as a guide.
The "Ig Nobel" Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.
"The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."
A gala ceremony is held each year at Harvard's Sanders Theater where the awards are handed out by "genuinely bemused genuine Nobel laureates."
The 23rd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was held on Thursday, September 12, 2013.
One of the "Improbable Research" scientists who reached the top of the list of winners hails from Sweden.
Assistant Professor Marie Dacke from the University of Lund was thrilled to claim the joint prize in biology and astronomy.
"It's a fantastic honour and we've got a great reception over here," Dacke told The Local.
Working with four colleagues from the University, Dacke came upon the improbable discovery.
"We were out in the field looking at some dung beetles and it became apparent that they were able to find their way in the dark using the Milky Way."
"The Ig Nobel organizers liked the fact that we did research out in the field and also in the planetarium with the dung beetles which brought us to their attention," said Dacke.
Dacke was asked if dung beetles are more clever than they are given credit for, to which she laughed, and then replied, "I think most insects are much more intelligent than we think".
"They use their little brains in clever ways like being able to get around by using the Milky Way. They are very capable."
For those wanting to learn more about dung beetles, below is one of Dacke's colleagues giving a TED conference about these fascinating insects:
Other winners of the Ig Nobel prize included the following gems:
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko won the Peace Prize for making it illegal to applaud in public.
A research team from France won the Psychology Prize for 'Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder.' Their in-depth research confirmed that "People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive."
Then there was a group from Japan who won the medicine prize for assessing the effect of listening to opera on heart transplant patients who are mice. Their fascinating research uncovered the fact that: "Auditory stimulation of opera music induced prolongation of murine cardiac allograft survival and maintained generation of regulatory CD4+CD25+ cells."
There was a safety engineering prize, which was awarded to the late Gustano Pizzo [USA]. ".. for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival."
Then there was a group from Italy, UK, Denmark and Switzerland, who discovered that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond - if those people and that pond were on the moon.
Their research on "Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity" brought them the Physics prize.
More detail on these and other winners can be viewed here.
More about Sweden, Lund, Lund University, dung beetles, Navigation
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