Shigeru Watanabe of Japan accepts the Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the study "Estimation of the Total Saliva Produced Per Day in Five-Year-Old Children" at the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Japan team wins Ig Nobel award for measuring children's saliva


A team of five Japanese won the spoof Ig Nobel chemistry prize on Thursday for their study estimating the daily saliva volume produced by a five-year-old child.

Shigeru Watanabe, a professor of pediatric dentistry at the School of Health Sciences at Meikai University in Japan, accepted the prize on behalf of his team at the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The other, absent, recipients were Mineko Ohnishi, Kaori Imai, Eiji Kawano and Seiji Igarashi. It marks the 13th consecutive year a Japanese national has won an Ig Nobel prize.

The quintet were a part of the study "Estimation of the total saliva volume produced per day in five-year-old children" that was published at Hokkaido University, in February 1995.

The 68-year-old Watanabe was accompanied by his sons, who were among the 15 boys and 15 girls used as test subjects for the experiment conducted some 35 years ago.

Watanabe received his prizes -- a trophy made out of a coffee cup, a Zimbabwean 10 trillion dollar bill and a certificate -- from the 1993 Physiology or Medicine Nobel Laureate Richard Roberts, who discovered "split genes."

"We found out an important fact, that the total saliva volume per day in five-year-old children is 500 milliliters," he told about 1,100 audience members at Sanders Theater.

While on stage for the allotted 60 seconds, his son attempted to demonstrate the experiment at the instruction of his father before running out of time. "Okay, eat. Chew, chew, chew, chew, and spit out."

At the beginning of the experiment conducted in the 1980s, the collegiate team measured "unstimulated" saliva by having the children drip their saliva for five minutes into a container to be weighed.

The children also chewed and spat out six types of food for the professors to determine "salivary flow rates" when eating.

For the next two days, the team recorded the amount of time the children were awake, asleep, eating meals and snacking.

By determining the rates of saliva flow when "unstimulated" and when eating, they were able to estimate that a five-year-old child produces about 500 milliliters of saliva per day.

The chemistry prize was one of 10 handed out at the ceremony, which had the theme of "habits." The biology award went to an international team for its discovery that dead cockroaches remain magnetized longer than living ones.


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Kudos on them for apparently taking it seriously.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

why is the prize on Chemistry and not Biology or Medicine instead?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There is something quite wonderful about the Ig Nobel awards. They are awarded for research "that first makes people laugh, and then makes them think".

This year also included an award for researching whether men's testicles are both the same temperature. That's got me thinking, and scratching my ... head.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So umm ... what good does it do to know this ?

Maybe next they should look into the ammount of snot produced and so on ?

Would be interesting if they find any kind of relevance for this information at all.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

When I read ‘measuring children’s saliva’ it reminded me of the scene from Big Daddy when the kid was spitting it out and sucking it back in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sure this information is useful for pediatricians.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Good for Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It would be interesting to research, not only saliva, but its effect on tartar build up and tooth decay in children and young adults.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So what is the point of this research? Does it do good to humanity?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Does it say something about me that my goal in life is to be the silver guy holding the flashlight for the Ig Nobel Awards?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So umm ... what good does it do to know this ?

All knowledge is beneficial, professionals working on drug delivery, neurological balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, endocrinologists and many others have an interested on the amount of saliva produced and right now have to do with very inexact calculations that may not have much to do with reality.

So what is the point of this research? Does it do good to humanity?

Yes, knowing things and putting numbers on physiological functions is extremely beneficial. Now that the knowledge is there it is open to be used for any purpose including some that we have not even imagined yet. Gene editing had a huge breakout when someone got interested in how bacteria destroyed the genome of the viruses that infected it, on the first report it was just a description about something interesting but without any practical use, right now is a business of billions and likely to bring a new era on genetic treatments.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

JonathanJoSep. 13  05:19 pm JST

Kudos on them for apparently taking it seriously.

they didn't, sounds like you do

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A team of five Japanese won the SPOOF Ig Nobel chemistry prize on Thursday for their study estimating the daily saliva volume produced by a five-year-old child.

l assume the word "spoof" still means what it used to mean.

ignoble (get it?)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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