Honored might be the wrong word. But the researchers who published (take a deep breath if you’re reading this out loud) “Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspectives Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Proper Multiple Comparisons Correction,” in the Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results, did receive an award— an Ig Nobel.
Every year the Ig Nobel Prizes “honor” scientific achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. According to their website, “The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative— and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
This year’s winners include the makers of a “shut up gun” which is a device created by Japanese scientists that uses delayed audio feed back to disrupt the speech of whomever it’s being used on and a joint effort between the USA and UK to determine why ponytails bounce the way they do.
Money. Well. Spent.
While the shut up gun may have arrived just in time for election season, it’s University of Santa Cruz professor Craig Bennett’s work on what I can’t help but call “zombie salmon” that is grabbing all the headlines.
Bennet and his team of researchers were testing cutting-edge MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology to examine human brains in an attempt to observe how the living respond to various outside stimulation.
However, before they could test the devices on humans, they needed to make sure all this highly sensitive equipment was working right by testing it on objects with no brain activity; objects like a pumpkin and a dead Cornish game hen. After testing the game hen and the pumpkin, and getting no meaningful “brain” activity from either, they decided to test things out on a dead salmon. To their surprise, the long dead fish showed signs of…unlife?
Bennett doesn’t claim to have discovered a zombie salmon, in fact, he thinks this is probably just a false positive, or as his team put it their paper:
Either we have stumbled onto a rather amazing discovery in terms of post-mortem ichtyological cognition, or there is something a bit off with regard to our uncorrected statistical approach.
In layman’s terms: we didn’t do a good enough job accounting for the things that went wrong or salmon can come back from the dead to stalk the living.