Gaseous gators?

Well, yes – when it comes to science!  The BBC reports:

Have you heard the one about the alligator that performed the party trick of breathing in helium so it could talk in a funny voice?

It’s not that hilarious but then you’d be careful never to smile at a crocodilian.

Stephan Reber and colleagues performed the experiment to try to understand how alligators might communicate.

It was a serious piece of research but its slightly comedic aspects have just won the team an Ig Nobel Prize.

Ten such awards were handed out on Thursday by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

The annual Igs are intended as a bit of a spoof on the more sober Nobel science prizes.

Other 2020 winners included the team that devised a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows; and the group that wanted to see what happened when earthworms were vibrated at high frequency.

All this kind of stuff sounds daft, but when you dig a little deeper you realise much of the research lauded by the Ig Nobels is actually intended to tackle real-world problems and gets published in peer-reviewed, scholarly journals.

Dr Reber told BBC News he was honoured to receive the Ig.

His team’s study had attempted to show that crocodilians and other reptiles could advertise their body size through their vocalisations – something that mammals and birds can do when they call out.

. . .

The Prof is something of a superstar having also won an Ig earlier in his career for levitating frogs.

There’s more at the link.

When one looks at the list of those who’ve previously won an Ig Nobel prize, and the research that earned them the award, it’s hard to figure out how they came up with the idea(s) for such experiments.  I mean, who would have thought of using magnets to levitate a frog?

One can only bow in the presence of such greatness . . .



  1. My favorite so far were the shrimp on the treadmill. Daughter looked up the science behind it and it was actually quite ingenious. Not as stupid as it looked.

  2. Peter, as to the use of magnets to levitate frogs, that seems to borrow upon the idea of feeding iron shot to frogs to ahem, keep them from jumping, which begs the question, sort of, have you ever read Mark Twain's 'Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'? He never got an IgNobel! If you haven't…

  3. I have a bound volume of Annals of Improbable Research from around 1970 or so–half my library is in boxes and I'm not digging for it now. This is long before the internet though; I suppose I have a lot of catching up to do.
    My favorite from that book was "A stress analysis of the strapless evening gown." Quite technical and very well done.

  4. Greg – I have that same book. Unfortunately, I got mine at a used book store sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, and someone had clipped a few things out of it. Not that article, though. The other article I remember (half of my library is also boxed up) is the one on how to catch a lion.

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