Ever Wonder What Bacteria Is in That Wad of Gum You Stepped On?

The 2021 Ig Nobel Prize winners have been announced.

While many in the science community have been focused on issues related to COVID-19, research has continued on items that aren’t related to the pandemic—or anything else in the news.

For example, have you ever been grossed out by the thought of germs in the discarded gum you may have stepped on? Scientists Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú and Manuel Porcar have been awarded the 2021 Ig Nobel Prize in Ecology for using genetic analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in wads of discarded chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries.

Or maybe you’ve wondered why humans have evolved facial hair or beards. During the ceremony on September 9, Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway and David Carrier were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Peace for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.

Other prizes included:

  • Chemistry Prize: Jörg Wicker, Nicolas Krauter, Bettina Derstroff, Christof Stönner, Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, Achim Edtbauer, Jochen Wulf, Thomas Klüpfel, Stefan Kramer and Jonathan Williams, for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theaters, to test whether the odors produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use and bad language in the movie the audience is watching.
  • Economics Prize: Pavlo Blavatskyy, for discovering that the obesity of a country’s politicians may be a good indicator of that country’s corruption.
  • Physics Prize: Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi and Federico Toschi, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.
  • Kinetics Prize: Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama and Katsuhiro Nishinari, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do sometimes collide with other pedestrians.

And the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Olcay Cem Bulut, Dare Oladokun, Burkard Lippert and Ralph Hohenberger for suggesting an alternative to decongestants for those with a stuffy nose.

Improbable Research says the Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people laugh, and then think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology. More information about the 2021 winners is available here.