News - October 1, 2011

'Call of nature' study wins Ig Nobel Prize

Controlling the urge to urinate is a good exercise in self control. A study into bladder control earned one of the three Ig Nobel prizes bagged by The Netherlands on Thursday evening.

Ig Nobel prizes have gradually become part and parcel in the scientific world. Though a little short of being as prestigious as the real Nobel prizes, they are a feather in one's cap. The prizes are awarded annually at Harvard for research which first makes you laugh and then sets you thinking.
The Netherlands won three prizes on Thursday evening. The prize for medicine was awarded to the urination research conducted by, among others, Mirjam Tuk (University  of Twente) and Debra Trampe (University of Groningen). According to the researchers, people who have to control their urge to urinate seem to be less impulsive when making decisions. The researchers allowed students, for example, to choose between a small reward in the short run and a much bigger reward in the long run. Students with better bladder control chose the reward in the long run. Apparently, those who can control their bladder can also control themselves better in other areas and respond more rationally. Loosely translated: it's better to go shopping with a full bladder than a wallet full of cash.
The physics prize was awarded to, among others, the Dutch Herman Kingma (Maastricht University). He has found an explanation why discus throwers become dizzy during sporting, while hammer throwers do not: Hammer throwers have a different way of rotating and focus on the heavy ball.
Natalie Sebanz (Radboud University Nijmegen) received an Ig Nobel Prize in physiology for a study into the yawning behaviour of the red-footed tortoise. People yawn when they see someone else yawning, but the red-footed tortoise does not seem to be affected by others. The complete list of prize winners is available on the site of the Annals of Improbably Research magazine.