Friday, September 28, 2012

Ig Nobel Prizes give cheeky nod to science

Emory primatologist Frans de Waal can add to his long list of honors the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for Anatomy, for a study about how chimpanzees can identify other individual chimpanzees simply from looking at photographs of their rear ends. Here's a link to the 2008 study: "Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception."

The Ig Nobel Prizes are handed out each year at Harvard University to recognize research "that first makes you laugh, then makes you think." The Guardian provides a great summary of this year's winners.

Scientific American's Scicurious Brain blog reports that de Waal was happy to win an Ig Nobel Prize, because scientists tend to take themselves too seriously. Scicurious Brain notes that the chimpanzee study was actually less about their butts and more about "gender constructs" and how chimpanzees recognize one another: "What they found that was chimps could easily match the sample butt to the sample face and showed good sex matching, but ONLY in the case of chimps that they knew personally. When it came to the random Facebook friend request, the chimps couldn’t match butt to face." 

Monkeys can recognize faces in photos
Finally, 'Noble Prizes' for animals


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