The Ig Nobel Prizes for Improbable Research 2015

Out of the Ordinary

Oberzaucher E, Grammer K, The Case of Moulay Ismael – fact or fancy?  PLOS ONE. 2014. 9(2), e85292. Available at:

The Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty (1672–1727) was supposed to have sired 888 children. The authors developed a computer simulation which tested how many copulations per day were necessary to reach this reported reproductive outcome. Calculations, based on a report from 1704, determined whether it was possible to have 600 sons in a reproductive time-span of 32 years. The algorithm was based on models of conception and different social and biological constraints:

  • a random mating pool with unrestricted access to females
  • a restricted harem pool

The results indicate that Moulay Ismael could have achieved this high reproductive success. A comparison of the conception models highlights the necessity to consider female sexual habits when assessing fertility across the cycle. We also show that the harem size needed is far smaller than the reported numbers.

A sure-fire candidate for the Jeremy Kyle show!

Begue L, BushmanBJ, Zerhuni o, et al. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’: People who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. British Jnl of Psychology. 2013. 104(2):225-234

This research examined the role of alcohol consumption on self-perceived attractiveness. Study 1, carried out in a bar-room (N= 19), showed that the more alcoholic drinks customers consumed, the more attractive they thought they were. In Study 2, 94 non-student participants in a bogus taste-test study were given either an alcoholic beverage (target BAL [blood alcohol level]= 0.10 g/100 ml) or a non-alcoholic beverage, with half of each group believing they had consumed alcohol and half believing they had not (balanced placebo design).

After consuming beverages, they delivered a speech and rated how attractive, bright, original, and funny they thought they were. The speeches were videotaped and rated by 22 independent judges.

Results showed that participants who thought they had consumed alcohol gave themselves more positive self-evaluations. However, ratings from independent judges showed that this boost in self-evaluation was unrelated to actual performance.

Again, Jeremy Kyle would be interested...