On Thursday at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, spectators will gather to celebrate the most imaginative, scintillating, and silliest academic research of 2016. Now in its 26th year, Ig Nobel Prizes are commonly pooled from over 9,000 nominations and given out to ten research teams or individuals whose work embodies the fine line between the absurd and brilliant. Last year’s awarded papers included research that found that weighted chickens walk like dinosaurs and the observation that mammal urination does not change with body size.
Non-attendees can catch the whole show at 6pm EST on the webpage of the Annals of Improbable Research, one of the sponsors of the event. But who will walk away with the Nobel Prize of research that makes “people LAUGH, and then THINK” remains to be seen; there’s not a list of probable nominees released before the big show. Here at Inverse, we’re placing our bets on these quirky research discoveries of 2016:
You Probably Think Legos Are Real
In a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers argue that a part of the human brain perceives Lego “people” to be alive. It’s not because we suffer from some sort of Toy Story delusion; the human brain goes through something called “animate monitoring bias” in which it judges what is important. These are the signals that help us eat, mate, and survive.
Psychologists figured out that humans perceive Lego “people” to be real by asking them to look at static images that showed the Legos along with other inanimate objects like trees and flowers. The humans were able to locate the Legos more quickly than the other objects, proving to the researchers that somewhere in the brain our perception of Legos overlap with that of animate objects — and that we might even think of Lego people as, well, real people.
Bug Genitals Transform From Too Much Sex
In May, University of Exeter researchers found that extensive beetle boning causes the shape of their genitals to change over a few generations. If beetles have a lot of sex, the reproductive bits of male and female beetles change: males get longer penises and females evolve “claws” on their business to discourage mating.
“Our research demonstrates the general importance of conflicts of interest between males and females in helping to generate some of the biodiversity that we see in the natural world,” researcher Paul Hopwood said in a statement. “It’s fascinating how genital evolution can happen so fast — in ten generations — showing how rapidly evolutionary changes can occur.”
Drunk Rats Should Consider Alcoholics Anonymous
In a quest to figure out how to cure or at least modify alcoholism, scientists created and studied a population of booze-loving rats. This group of rats were purposefully bred from alcohol-preferring parentage and, after a few generations, the scientists were able to have one group that genetically thirsted for liquor, with another that was considered normal. Then, after a sequencing of those rat’s genomes, the scientists found that they could identify 930 genetic differences associated with alcoholism. In a paper published in August in the journal PLOS Genetics, the researchers say that can’t definitively say that this means that humans could also be genetically predisposed to alcoholism, but they hope that this is the first step to figuring that out.
Beards Are Sex-Magnets
A study published this August in the journal Evolutionary Biology confirmed what hipster boys know: Beards are the way into a woman’s heart — and mind. Researchers had 8,520 heterosexual women look at computer graphics morph between faces with no facial hair, some stubble, and full-on beard. While light stubble was determined as the most attractive, faces with full beards were preferred when the woman had to consider who she would want a long-term relationship with. The researchers reason that this because women correlate beards with providing direct benefits to their own survival and, in turn, men have grown beards as a secondary sexual trait.
The Perfectly Engineered Bottle of Shampoo That’ll Use Every. Last. Drop.
In an engineering feat, researchers from Ohio State University manufactured a shampoo bottle that lets you get every last drop of slather out by coating the innards of the bottle. Hold your eye-rolling: While getting all the shampoo out of a bottle may seem like a silly, first-world problem, creating an item like this actually has huge implications for the environment. Billions of bottles still with product in them end up in the garbage can, says study author Bharat Bhushan.