Crackly crisps taste better, costly placebos work better, and fleas jump higher on dogs than cats

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 08 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1992
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne
  1. 1Cambridge, Massachusetts

    After the Ig Nobel prizes were announced last week, there were a few less “unknown unknowns.” Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary who first coined the phrase to describe things we didn’t know that we didn’t know, would have been delighted.

    The Ig Nobels, spoofs on the Nobel prizes, are awarded for research “that first makes you laugh, then makes you think.” Many are handed out by genuine Nobel laureates, at a ceremony at Harvard University organised by the Annals of Improbable Research.

    The theme of this year’s ceremony was “redundancy.” It featured redundant opening and closing speeches (“Welcome, welcome” and “Goodbye, goodbye”), two appearances by an imitator of the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, and two demonstrations of sword swallowing by last year’s winner (BMJ 2007;335:741, doi:10.1136/bmj.39363.414780.DB).

    The Oxford scientist Charles Spence won the nutrition prize together with Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy, for a study showing that people believe that crackly crisps are 15% tastier. Professor Spence, head of Oxford’s Cross-Modal Laboratory, told the BMJ that in his study people …

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