23 September 2015
by u/k

Australian professor awarded Ig Nobel Prize for ‘unboiling’ egg

Flinders University chemistry professor Colin Raston has been recognized in the Ig Nobel Prizes, a humorous parody of the world-renowned Nobel Prizes.

Professor Raston won an Ig Nobel Prize for creating the vortex fluidic device, which can ‘unboil’ an egg. During their first test, researchers managed to pull apart the egg’s tangled proteins and return the egg white to its previous consistency. While the VFD has broad application in the pharmaceutical and biochemistry industries, it had the unexpected and unintended application of unfolding the proteins in egg whites back to their natural state. According to a report in the journal Scientific Reports, published a few months ago by Nature, the device can also be used to help in the delivery of chemotherapy drugs.

“All scientists want to do something that is significant, but this has the wow factor,” Professor Raston said when learning he had won an Ig Nobel Prize. He admitted that the discovery was not what his team started out to do, but “it’s the way of explaining the science involved and helping the wider world realise the momentousness of it.”

Another Australian professor received an Ig Nobel Prize for a 2013 paper titled Is ‘Huh?’ A Universal Word? Sydney University Professor Nick Enfield along with co-authors Dr Francisco Torreira and Dr Mark Dingemanse from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands took home an Ig Nobel Prize for a language study about universal words. The team wanted to find out whether people used language in the same way, so they recorded videos of people talking in villages across the world, the ABC reported. This is how they discovered that the word ‘huh’ transcends language barriers because it sounds nearly identical in a number of countries.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are given out each year for the most trivial or unusual achievements in scientific research. They are organised by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research with an editorial board that brings together 50 world scientists, including Nobel Prize winners and are awarded at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cornell researcher Michael Smith and entomologist Justin Schmidt received an Ig Nobel Prize for their painstaking experiments charting exactly how painful insect stings are and where the stings hurt the most. Other researchers won prizes for investigating the limits of the human body and for showing the health benefits of “intense kissing and other intimate personal acts.”

Last year, researchers won prizes for the discovery that people who stay up late are more often psychopaths and for their inquiries into whether cats endanger their owners’ mental health.