This year’s Ig Nobel Prize in medicine was for a professor who found that roller coaster can hasten the passage of kidney stones.
Not just any roller coaster, however: a very specific ride at Walt Disney World in Florida.
In case you’ve never heard of the Ig Nobel prizes, they’re like the regular Nobel prizes only the winners don’t get any money. And the prizes are usually not handed out to the person that makes the greatest strides in the furtherment of the species. It’s more for recognizing the most ridiculous scientific studies to ever be peer-reviewed and then published.
This year’s top prize in medicine went to Professor David Wartinger of Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. He published a paper in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association on how roller coasters can ease the passage of kidney stones in suffering patients.
To understand the leap between roller coasters and kidney stones requires a bit of a story. A patient of Dr. Wartinger recently went to Disney World and took a ride on Big Thunder Mountain--that’s the wooden roller coaster with the Wild West frontiersman sort of theme. After going on the ride, he found that a kidney stone had popped out. So he went back on the ride three more times and found three more stones by the time he got off.
Intrigued, Dr. Wartinger decided to test this story by building a silicone model of the renal system afflicted by kidney stones. He found that Big Thunder Mountain did indeed knock kidney stones loose, and combined with the excitement of the roller coaster, made them easier to pass for the patient. It was also much more affected by newer roller coasters, such as Space Mountain or the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
Wartinger’s theory was that Big Thunder Mountain shook the patient far more than other roller coasters thanks to its older wood design and the fact it moved from side-to-side and up-and-down more often.
Other winners this year included a Japanese doctor who invented self-colonoscopies, a British nutritionist who discovered that human flesh isn’t worth eating over other types of meat in terms of nutritional value, and an economics professor that studied the effects of using voodoo dolls on a bad boss.
You can check out the full list of winners here.