Japan has once again become the recipient of Ig Nobel Prizes. This year, Japan won two categories: medicine and chemistry. All it took for the medicine award was making mice that went through heart transplant surgery listening to opera. The chemistry award resulted from the discovery why cutting onions makes one cry. The winning Japanese groups received their awards at Harvard University on Thursday.
Known as a parody for the prestigious Nobel Prize, the annual awards grants recognition for uncanny discoveries. It is also hosted by the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With the support of the science humour magazine ‘Annals of Improbable Research,’ ten awards are given. All of which are intended to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
The Teikyo University School of Medicine received the Medicine Award for their “research assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice.” The team performed heart transplant on young adult mice. For seven days, three mice listened to opera, new age, or classical music. One mouse had its post-surgery recovery period without music. The other mice each listened to six different sound frequencies.
“People may laugh when they hear that we had mice listen to opera, but there are many real-world implications from the study,” said Associate Professor Masanori Niimi. The three mice spent their post-surgery recovery period listening to La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, the professor’ favourite piece, and Mozart’s overture. The experiment revealed that those who did not listen to opera or classical music lasted an average of 7 to 11 days. However, those exposed to opera and classical music had an average of 26.5 days of survival. Niimi said he was not too surprised for the result although he was politely told by other scientists that the results can’t be right. “I have tried other sounds, but nothing had been that effective before,” he said.
Japan’s other award was granted to House Foods Corp., a food manufacturer renowned for its curry, for their discovery on the biochemical process causing people to shed tears when cutting onions. Senior Scientist Shinsuke Imai led the team of researchers and shared that a different enzyme, which is not related to the sense of taste and smell, is responsible for the stimulation of the lachrymal glands. Imai thanked the people who have helped them during their research, especially those whom they “forced to cry.”