Great moments in human research

Part One: Research you really didn't need to know

Also in this week's column:

Great moments in human research 1: "Concluding, among other things..."

The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded to research that is not exactly compelling. Here are some "winners" in human research.

  • A February 1976 article in Nature concluding, among other things, that there is often "scrotal asymmetry" in man and in ancient sculptures.
  • A November 1984 article in the Journal of Trauma concluding, among other things, that serious head injuries can occur as the result of falling coconuts.
  • An August 1988 article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that there can be a "[T]ermination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage".
  • A February 1990 article in the Journal of Periodontology concluding, among other things, that waxed dental floss is preferred to unwaxed dental floss by dental patients by a ratio of nearly two to one.
  • A May-June 1990 article in the Journal of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that "[a] zipper-entrapped penis is a painful predicament that can be made worse by overzealous intervention".
  • A June 1990 article in the British Journal of Dermatology concluding, among other things, that people who think they have foot odour usually do have foot odour and people who do not think they have food odour usually do not have foot odour.
  • An April 1991 article in the International Journal of Neuroscience concluding, among other things, that "[c]ognitive performance ratios can be influenced by forcibly altering the breathing pattern".
  • A June 1991 article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that electric shock treatment is not a successful treatment of rattle snake bites.
  • An August 1993 article in Genitourinary Medicine concluding, among other things, that gonorrhea can be transmitted through an inflatable doll.
  • An August 1993 article in Military Medicine concluding, among other things, that constipation occurs to U.S. military personnel at the following rates: 7.2 per cent while at home, 10.4 per cent while be transported to the field, and 30.2 per cent while in the field.
  • A December 1993 article in the Scottish Medical Journal concluding, among other things: "[T]hree cases are presented of porcelain lavatory pans collapsing under body weight, producing wounds which required hospital treatment. Excessive age of the toilets was implicated as a causative factor. As many toilets get older episodes of collapse may become more common, resulting in further injuries."

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

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