Amusing Monday: Odd research may actually benefit mankind

When a group of physicists put their minds to working on the subject of urination, they discovered that mammals of all sizes take about the same amount of time to pee.

It’s a matter of fluid mechanics, and it turns out that mammals above 3 kilograms in weight — from dogs to elephants — empty their bladders in 21 seconds, give or take 13 seconds. Small mammals are hindered by high viscous and capillary forces that limit their rate of flow, while large mammals benefit from bigger pipes and gravity that helps flush out larger volumes of urine in a short time.

It’s amazing to think that scientists actually pursued this question, but the researchers insist that the results may have practical use in the field of urology.

Meanwhile, the oddity of the subject earned the researchers from Georgia Tech an Ig Nobel Prize, an award that honors the best research that “makes people laugh and then think.” The awards ceremony, held Sept. 17 at Harvard University, honored 10 groups of researchers from throughout the world. The prize, a mainstay of the website “Improbable Research,” is a play on the word “ignoble,” which means either humble or dishonorable.

The following are the other awards presented this year. For specifics, see “Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize.”

Chemistry Prize: Researchers identified a process for “partially unboiling an egg.” When I first heard this, I found it incredible, but it apparently is true. It has to do with the way long protein chains can alter their functional state by the way they fold back on themselves. The process offers a method to produce certain medicines at much less cost. For a good explanation, check out the video on this page or read the story by Summer Ash on the MSNBC website.

Literature Prize: Linguistic experts looked the world over and found that almost every language has an utterance like the English “huh?” — and the meanings are all about the same. See the second video on this page.

Management Prize: According to new research, many business leaders developed a fondness for risk-taking early in their lives after surviving natural disasters — such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and wildlifes — with no dire consequences to their lives.

Economics Prize: The award went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay police officers cash bonuses if they refuse to take bribes.

Medicine Prize: Two research groups working in various parts of the world discovered from experiments that intense kissing and other intimate activities produce biomedical consequences, such as reduced allergic response.

Mathematics Prize: A group of European scientists used mathematical techniques to figure out how Mouley Ismael, the bloodthirsty Sharifian emperor of Morocco, managed to father 888 children from 1697 to 1727.

Biology Prize: By attaching a weighted stick to the tail of a chicken, researchers discovered that the chicken walks in a way similar to how dinosaurs may have walked.

Diagnostic Prize: It turns out that speed bumps make a good tool for diagnosing acute appendicitis. The deciding factor is how much pain a person feels while driving over speed bumps that jostle their insides.

Physiology and Entomology Prize: The prize was awarded jointly to two individuals who laid their bodies on the line for science. Justin Schmidt developed the Schmidt Sting Pain Index to rate the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects. Michael L. Smith allowed bees to sting him on 25 different locations on his body to identify the least painful spots (skull, middle toe tip and upper arm) and most painful (nostril, upper lip and penis).

The awards ceremony, which is long but contains plenty of light moments, can be viewed in the video below. Another ongoing website about odd and unusual studies is “Seriously, Science?” which I discussed in Water Ways about a year ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Please enter the word MILK here: