Student suffers 25 stings to net IgNobel

Studies fitting chickens with prosthetic “dinosaur tails”, looking at the plausibility of fathering 888 children, and discovering the most painful bee sting points on the body are all among the latest winners of “Ig Nobel” awards.

The awards, parodying the Nobel Prizes, are given out each year for the most unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research.

Of this year’s winners, no-one was more deserving than Phd student Michael Smith, from Cornell University in the US, who tested the painfulness of bee stings on 25 locations on his own body.

The three most painful places to be stung turned out to be the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft.

Writing in the journal PeerJ, Mr Smith said: “For the most painful locations, sting depth may be important, because the skin is thinnest on the genitals, followed by the face..

“Stings to the nostril were especially violent, immediately inducing sneezing, tears and a flow of mucus.”

The chicken study was conducted to investigate the idea that birds are really surviving dinosaurs that managed to avoid being wiped out by a meteor impact 65 million years ago.

Scientists led by Bruno Grossi, from the University of Chile in Santiago, fixed artificial tails to chickens and observed that the birds started to adopt the posture of theropod dinosaurs – Tyrannosaurus rex and its relatives.

The chicken’s centre of gravity shifted and the bird adopted a more dino-like hip-driven gait.

“The addition of an artificial tail can produce postural and locomotory changes in chickens consistent with the posture and kinematics inferred for non-avian dinosaurs”, the researchers wrote in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Also among the winners were the authors of a study entitled The Case of Moulay Ismael – Fact or Fancy?.

Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, ruled as Emperor of Morocco from 1672 to 1727. As well as a thirst for blood he had other strong appetites, it appears - reputedly siring no less than 888 children.

Anthropologists Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer from the University of Vienna developed a computer simulation to test whether such a feat of fatherhood was possible.

“The results indicate that Moulay Ismael could have achieved this high reproductive success.” The awards, organised by the humorous scientific magazine Annals of Improbable Research, were presented at Harvard University in the US.


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