Entertainment

‘Prizewinners’ announced in 2019 Ig Nobels

By AAP Newswire

A study which suggested that training surgeons is as easy as training dolphins or dogs has earned a 2019 Ig Nobel, the annual Nobel Prize spoof that rewards weird, odd and sometimes head-scratching scientific discoveries.

This year's winners also included Dutch and Turkish researchers who researched which nation has the "yuckiest" money, and an Italian scientist who urges consumption of pizza for its health benefits.

An Iranian engineer also won after obtaining a US patent for a diaper-changing machine.

Karen Pryor, Theresa McKeon and Dr I Martin Levy figured out that a common technique used for training animals called operant learning - or clicker training - can be used to make better surgeons.

In short, a mechanical device that emits an audible click is used to reinforce positive behaviour.

It's not quite the same as giving a doctor a treat and a pat on the head, but it still works, said Pryor, a scientist, writer and animal trainer who has been using the technique for decades.

"Traditionally, experienced surgeons will train the younger surgeons and they make it quite hard," which leads to tension and fear of failure, she said.

"With our method, they learned to use the tools with great confidence and calmness and turned them into calm, pleasant, serene people," she said.

The study published in 2015 by the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research found that surgeons trained using the clicker method performed surgical procedures with better precision.

The awards at the 29th annual ceremony at Harvard University were handed out by real Nobel laureates on Thursday.

The winners received $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, which is virtually worthless, and each was given one minute to deliver an acceptance speech enforced by an eight-year-old girl whining, "Please stop. I'm bored".

This year's celebrations also included a tribute to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Roy Glauber, who died in December at age 93.

Glauber, known for his humility and sense of humour, for years attended the Ig Nobel ceremony and always helped sweep up afterward.

Andreas Voss and his colleagues found that germophobes might want to avoid Romanian bank notes after discovering three types of drug-resistant bacteria clung the longest to Romanian money when compared to several other international currencies.

Silvano Gallus, head of the Laboratory of Lifestyle Epidemiology at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri in Milan, won an Ig Nobel for his research that found that, yes, pizza is good for you.

However, it was based on eating pizza that's made and consumed in Italy with ingredients associated with the Mediterranean diet, which has known health benefits.