Weird science bursting for awards
Published 30/09/2011 | 03:22
Driving while desperately needing to answer nature's call is not a crime, but maybe it should be, research suggests.
Peter Snyder and his colleagues found that having a bladder at its bursting point reduced attention span and the ability to make decisions to the same degree expected with low levels of alcohol intoxication or 24 hours of sleep deprivation.
The research has earned them the 2011 Ig Nobel prize for medicine.
"When people reach a point when they are in so much pain they just can't stand it anymore, it was like being drunk," said Mr Snyder, a professor of neurology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. "The ability to hold information was really impaired."
This year's winners of the dubious distinction handed out at Harvard University for head-scratching scientific discoveries included a team of Japanese scientists who invented a fire alarm that smells like wasabi; a European mayor who solved his city's parking problems with a piece of heavy military equipment; a Norwegian researcher who explored the science behind sighing; and the numerous people throughout history whose mathematical calculations to predict the end of the world have fallen flat.
The 21st annual awards sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research were handed out by real Nobel laureates and featured the usual doses of silliness, including a mini-opera about the chemistry in a coffee shop and the ritual launching of paper planes.
The point of Prof Snyder's work was to determine the effects of pain on decision making. Working with full bladders is a "low cost, low risk" way of causing pain that can be easily resolved, simply by going to the loo.
The research, carried out with scientists at Australian universities, was also fun. The group even crowned an unofficial withholding champion - the person who could go the longest before his bladder exploded. That was Australian researcher David Darby, who held out for three hours.
Arturas Zuokas, mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, won the Ig Nobel peace prize for his heavy-handed way of dealing with parking offenders. He crushed their cars with a military armoured personnel carrier.
The chemistry prize went to Japanese researchers who invented a fire alarm that emits the pungent odour of wasabi, the sinus-clearing green paste served with sushi.