Why legal texts are so complicated and ducks ride waves
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Why legal texts are so complicated and ducks ride waves

Translation: machine translated

The Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded for the 32nd time. Among the awarded works are synchronised hearts, moose tests and clogged scorpions.

I suppose anyone who has ever had to go to a notary or read a contract as a layperson will have asked themselves this: Why are such texts so difficult to understand? Eric Martínez, Edward Gibson, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and Francis Mollica from the University of Edinburgh have analysed this on the basis of ten million words of corresponding written documents and published it in the journal "Cognition". The result: "Compared to nine other basic genres of written and spoken English, contracts contain a surprisingly high proportion of certain hard-to-process features, such as rare technical terms, clauses embedded in the middle (leading to syntactic dependencies over long lengths), passive structures and non-standard capitalisation." Whether this is better understood by laypeople remains unclear, but for the jury of the Ig Nobel Prize, this publication is clearly worthy of a prize in the "literature" category.

The prize has now been awarded for the 32nd time, and as always, the members of the committee chose publications that often receive too little attention in everyday life with a wink: "Each winner (or winning team) has done something that first makes people laugh and then makes them think," the jury writes on its homepage.

The "Prize for Applied Cardiology", for example, goes to Eliska Prochazkova from Leiden University and her team for a work that could have great significance for lovers. As they write in Nature Human Behaviour, people's heartbeats seem to synchronise rapidly when they first meet and then immediately find each other attractive.

Frank Fish of West Chester University and Zhiming Yuan of the University of Strathclyde, on the other hand, are fond of ducklings. The fluffy offspring of waterfowl usually follow their mother in a relatively orderly line rather than in wild chaos. And the reason for this is physics: the mother swimming ahead causes a bow wave as well as eddies behind her stern, which the chicks behind take advantage of. "By riding the waves created by the mother duck, the following duckling can achieve a significant reduction in wave drag. When a duckling swims directly behind its mother, a destructive wave interference phenomenon occurs and the characteristic impedance of the duckling becomes positive, propelling the duckling forward. Even more interestingly, the rest of the ducklings in a single-row formation can maintain this wave-riding advantage," Yuan and co write.

The award for biology went to Solimary García-Hernández and Glauco Machadou of the Universidade de São Paulo for their publication in Integrative Zoology on the potentially aggravated love life of scorpions. When predators attack the invertebrates, they try to defend themselves with the poisonous sting at the end of their tail. Sometimes, however, they throw it off directly with a large part of the entire tail to irritate the opponent: a behaviour known as autotomy. This is associated with a weight loss of a quarter of the body mass; at the same time, the animals shed a large part of the digestive tract, including the anus. This leads to constipation, which does not bother the scorpions much. The males in particular slow down, but they still have enough time to find a mate and mate with her without any problems.

Some may have found a mate in the past.

Some people may have wondered why he or she is so successful at work when other members of the team would actually be more talented. Alessandro Pluchino, Alessio Emanuele Biondo and Andrea Rapisarda of the University of Catania have at least one possible answer, as their paper in Advances in Complex Systems suggests: According to their model, pure luck explains a good part of many people's career or social advancement.

The moose test still brings beads of sweat to the forehead of many a carmaker today. Yet the car did not even collide directly with this animal during the original event. In Scandinavian countries or Canada, however, fatal accidents involving the large deer are common. Magnus Gens of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute was therefore driven by the question of how to better arm vehicles against such collisions without having to sacrifice real moose. For his thesis, he designed a moose-like crash test dummy that produced excellent results. . Finally, the Ig Nobel Prize for Peace went to Junhui Wu of Utrecht University and co: the team developed an algorithm that helps gossips decide when to lie and when it's better to tell the truth.

Spectrum of Science

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Titelbild: © leekris / Getty Images / iStock (Ausschnitt)

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