Since 1991, the Ig Nobel Awards honor the world’s most ridiculous research and scientific undertakings. Two out of ten of this year’s honorees regarded, well, fecal matters.
The 2014 Ig Nobel award for biology went to a group of scientists from the Czech Republic and Germany that studied if dogs can sense the Earth’s magnetic field. The team examined dozens of dogs while they went to the bathroom, theorizing that the average pooch aligns its body along a north-south axis while they do so…or at least they do when a solar storm isn’t messing with the magnetic field. After studying over 70 dogs and 1,893 “doggy dumps,” they published their findings in Frontiers in Zoology. (This same group once conducted a similar study that proved that cows also align themselves on an axis during times of relief, but they studied that by examining Google Earth satellite images.) Why do dogs and cows prefer to poop in this fashion? The scientists have yet to figure that out.
The award for nutrition went to an even stinkier project. A group of food scientists in Spain discovered that they could make sausages out of baby poop. Well, to be more specific, they figured out that it’s possible to use three strains of bacteria commonly found in their diaper leavings to make what’s called probiotic starter cultures. This is a component that’s required to make several different types of fermented sausage. The scientists’ project eventually landed in the pages of Food Microbiology. That said, it’s a safe bet that Hormel, Oscar Mayer, and others will continue to use more conventional sausage-making methods.