Opera's healing power, what happens to parboiled shrews after they're eaten, and beetles that consult the stars are among the incredible scientific advances honored September 12 at the Ig Nobel Prizes.
The unique annual awards honor real research "that first makes people laugh, and then makes them think," according to their website. Winners were unveiled at the 23rd annual ceremony at Harvard's venerable Sanders Theater, hosted by the Annals of Improbable Research and several Harvard University student groups.
As usual, a number of genuine Nobel laureates gathered onstage to hand out the coveted prizes in a raucous atmosphere of scientific celebration that was streamed live on NationalGeographic.com. Read on for this year's winners.
Opera Helps Heal Heart Transplant Patients—Who Are Mice
If music soothes the savage beast, it may do the same for the immune system—as long as it's the right music. Mouse heart transplant patients who listened to Verdi's La Traviata survived far longer than those who did not, a Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery study found.
"A famous opera generated health benefits and prolonged survival. We hope and we believe that these are important results," said Masanori Niimi of Teikyo University in Tokyo, whose team took home the Ig Nobel for Medicine.
The study's deaf mice survived only about a week post transfer, while those who enjoyed opera lived an average of 26 days. Blood tests seemed to show that the music boosted the immune system, providing more evidence, the authors noted, that the brain can control the responses of the immune system.
But the type of music matters. Opera had the most healing effects, the authors noted, but mice who listened to Mozart instead still survived a good 20 days. Those who had Enya played for them, on the other hand, gave up the ghost after only 11 days.
People Who Think They're Drunk Also Think They're More Attractive
"Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder." That's the title and the conclusion of a British Journal of Psychology study that confirmed that people who are drunk, and even people who think they are drunk but aren't, believe that they are more attractive than they did before drinking.