Ig Nobel Awards



Ig Nobel Awards 2002

The Ig Nobel 2002 Award ceremony was held yesterday (Thurs 03.10.02). Their site is here. Newsweek reported on the ceremony:

'The definitive study on bellybutton lint, a dog-to-person translation device and an inquiry into what arouses ostriches were recognized Thursday with Ig Nobel prizes for dubious contributions to science and cocktail-party conversations everywhere...

...British scientists were honored for research that found that ostriches become more amorous with each other when a human is around. In fact, ostriches eventually start putting the moves on humans.

In economics, the executives and auditors at Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen and a host of other companies were commended by the Ig Nobel committee “for adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world.” '
Re: Ig Nobel Awards 2002

Wastrel said:
...British scientists were honored for research that found that ostriches become more amorous with each other when a human is around. In fact, ostriches eventually start putting the moves on humans.

But if there weren't any humans around, how would they be observing how amorous the ostritches were being? :D
Could cruise this site for hours, sheer brilliance
IgNobel prizes and the Periodic Table

This years IgNobel prizes contain a couple of corkers, my particular favourite being a guy who built a Periodic Table. Yes that's right a table contaning samples of 207 (and counting) elements - with different wooden tiles to indicate whether something is an earth metal or a noble gas. This guy is nuts - in the full on obsessive kind of way, but I can't help but admire his tenacity.

Other marvels: A dog-japanese dictionary and a pet washing machine.

Details of the prizes are on our very own home page (in the news section) or here.
I'm not sure I'd want to know what dogs think. Every one that gets near me either wants to bite me or lick me to death. :cross eye
There was an episode of Eerie Indiana where a boy had a "retainer" which helped him to hear dogs thoughts. lol :D

That thing about the lint in the belly button reminds me of something they said on the radio this morning about hoew fluff always ends up in there. Now, I have an "inny" so if fluff was going to get in there, it could quite easily, but I've never had any. Anyone else?
Can't believe I asked that question... :eek:
I could havesworn there were only 109 elements on my table at school...
Anywho; where did he get the plutonium from?
wel i found it intersting...more interesting than the peeling brown chart the chemistry teacher pointed at anyway.
Inverurie Jones said:
I could havesworn there were only 109 elements on my table at school...
Anywho; where did he get the plutonium from?

IJ, here's a really current PTE at this site.
He is now the proud owner of a radioactive, poisonous and explosive coffee table.
He says there are 25 elements he still needs samples of, plutonium is one of them. Most of the radioactive ones (or all) he does not have, nor does he have arsenic, etc.
The best nominee has to be the flash clock which shows a guy writing the time with a pencil. im sure i have a link to it somewhere.
Back to the wooden PTE

My fave section is this one: seriously! Make your own heavy water, burn some lithium: this bloke's great value all round.

Perhaps we should introduce him to the Time Cube chap :). Never know, may bring about armageddon after all....
I was particularly impressed with the paper on exponential decay of beer froth. The calculus seems to check out, but I note that the experimental data was only taken from lagers. What about real ale? Surely further work is called for here - where can I apply for a grant?:D
This year's Igs:

The complete list of winners:

Engineering: To John Paul Stapp, Edward A. Murphy, Jr (both posthumous) and George Nichols giving birth in 1949 to Murphy's Law, the basic engineering principle that "If anything can go wrong, it will".

Physics: The Australian team that produced a report on An Analysis Of The Forces Required To Drag Sheep Over Various Surfaces.

Psychology: The Italian and US researchers for their report: Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities.

Chemistry: A Japanese researcher who investigated why a bronze statue in the city of Kanazawa did not attract pigeons.

Literature: John Trinkaus for a collection of studies including one that contained data on the percentage of young people who wore baseball caps with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front.

Economics: Karl Schwarzler and the nation of Liechtenstein for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other gatherings.

Interdisciplinary research: A Stockholm University team for its report: Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans.

Biology: CW Moeliker from the Netherlands for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.

Peace: Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for his campaign to prove he is alive.

Medicine: The University College London team for showing the hippocampus of taxi drivers is bigger than in the general population.


Necrophiliac ducks, clever cabbies and reluctant sheep show why science can be such an Ig Nobel art
The alternative prizes that recognise the best in the most useless research

WHEN a male mallard duck flew into the glass façade of Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum in 1995, Kees Moeliker had little idea that he was about to witness a landmark in biological science.
Upon hearing a loud bang a floor below his office, the scientist rushed to investigate. He found the bird’s lifeless body on the ground — and another drake “raping the corpse”.

Eight years later, Dr Moeliker’s contribution to ornithological knowledge has finally been recognised. His seminal paper, entitled The First Case of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, was honoured last night with an Ig Nobel prize, commemorating achievements that “cannot or should not be reproduced”.

The study of the unfortunate duck, which won the biology prize, was one of ten remarkable pieces of research cited in Harvard University’s annual Ig Nobel awards, the Nobel Prize spoof that celebrates bizarre and apparently pointless science. Others on the roll of dishonour included a team from University College London, led by Eleanor Maguire, for their discovery that the brains of London cabbies are bigger than those of ordinary mortals. They won the medicine prize. Their study used brain scans to show that drivers of black cabs have more grey matter than usual in the hippocampus — the part of the brain that deals with navigation — as a result of doing “the knowledge”.

The physics prize went to a group of Australian scientists for a report entitled An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces. The economics award was given to the people of Liechtenstein. The tiny nation was cited “for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs and other gatherings”.

Lal Bihari, a shopkeeper from Uttar Pradesh in India, is this year’s peace laureate for leading an active life, even though, according to government documents, he was officially dead for 18 years. He is cited “for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives, and for creating the Association of Dead People”.

A special engineering prize was awarded to three scientists, two of whom really are dead. The late Edward A. Murphy Jr, the late John Paul Stapp and George Nichols are honoured for formulating Murphy’s Law in 1949. This principle holds that “if there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it”.

Each of the ten prizes were accepted at the ceremony, either by a winner or a representative. The sheep-dragging study, led by John Culvenor, investigated precisely how much force needs to be exerted to pull a sheep across the floor of the “catching pen” to the shearer’s workstation. “The mean dragging forces for different floor textures and slopes ranged from 359 Newtons (36.6kg) to 423N (43.2kg),” it concluded. This is “close to the maximum acceptable limit for pulling forces for the most capable of males”. The judges commended the scientists on their “irresistible” research.

Dr Moeliker, meanwhile, described death of mallard NMR 9997-00232 in exquisite detail in the pages of Deinsea, the journal of the natural history museum of Rotterdam. The building had a glass façade, which sometimes acted as a mirror, leading its scientists to realise that “a ‘bang’ or a sharp ‘tick’ on the window meant work for the bird department”.

“On June 5, 1995, an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam and died,” Dr Moeliker wrote. “Another drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.”

Dr Moeliker said last night: “I’m very honoured to get this prize. The study shows that when you go to your local pond and see ducks, everything is not quite as peaceful as it seems.

“The victim is now one of the main pieces in the collection of the natural history museum, so it’s a part of natural history. As for the perpetrator, I had to chase him off and I’ve never seen him again.”

Marc Abrahams, the Ig Nobel organiser, said Dr Moeliker had proved himself an exceptionally dedicated researcher, to stand by and watch the event for 75 minutes. “It’s a testimony to the observatory powers and endurance of modern scientists,” he said.

Chris Frith, a member of the British team honoured for their taxi driver study, said London’s cabbies deserved to share the credit for the award. “They absolutely deserve to be honoured as well, and we hope they will collaborate with us further,” he said.

Mr Bihari eventually managed to have himself declared living again, and to obtain an Indian passport so that he could attend the ceremony and receive his prize from four genuine Nobel laureates. The US authorities, however, refused him a visa.

The roll of dishonour...


Kees Moeliker, of Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. Photographs can be viewed at http://www.nmr.nl/deins815.htm


The late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr. and George Nichols, for 1949 Murphy’s Law, stating if there are two or more ways to do something, one of which can result in catastrophe, someone will do it.


Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces.


Eleanor Maguire, David Gadian, Ingrid Johnsrude, Catriona Good, John Ashburner, Richard Frackowiak, and Christopher Frith of University College London, for evidence that the brains of taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of other Londoners.


Gian Vittorio Caprara and Claudio Barbaranelli of the University of Rome, and Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, for their report entitled: “Politicians’ uniquely simple personalities”.


Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for his investigation of a bronze statue in Kanazawa that fails to attract pigeons.


John Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, New York City, for more than 80 academic reports about specific annoyances of daily life, such as: what percentage of young people wear baseball caps with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front; and what percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket’s express checkout lane.


Karl Schwärzler and the nation of Liechtenstein, for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings and other gatherings.

Interdisciplinary research

Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University, for their report: “Chickens prefer beautiful humans”.


Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for leading an active life despite being declared legally dead and for waging a posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia.
Perhaps I should have put this on the Irony thread:
Mr Bihari eventually managed to have himself declared living again, and to obtain an Indian passport so that he could attend the ceremony and receive his prize from four genuine Nobel laureates. The US authorities, however, refused him a visa.
Re: Re: Ig Nobel Awards 2002

Inverurie Jones said:
I have got to get one of those.

Better make sure you get the right type, IJ - you don't want to buy one which can only translate Pekingese if you have a German Shepherd . . . :p

The Ig Nobels have really gone downhill since people have started trying to win them.

Dr Karl Kruczelnicki, who won last year for belly button fluff, is desperately trying to find another subject to try and get another.

Good to see Edward A. Murphy Jr get the credit he deserves. (And the statement of Murphy's Law is actually correct.)

Also, I'm not sure about the sheep dragging study. It's an important issue regarding Occupational Health and Safety in shearing sheds. (Not to mention an important community service announcement for New Zealand.)
I think the duck thing is flawed - how do we know that the duck involved was homosexual? I mean, he may have been bisexual...
The term "homosexual" in this context does not describe the drake, but rather the act. After all, the drake may not have been gay, it may have been one of those straight drakes that uses homosexual rape as a power thing.
From the World Wide Words newsletter:

Why should it require three men to invent Murphy's Law,
even if one of them was indeed named Murphy?

It's a long story. Cut to the bare bones the "official" version is
this: in 1949, Captain Murphy was working on experiments at Edwards
Air Force Base in California to learn how much sudden deceleration
a person could stand in a crash; these used human volunteers and
dummies strapped to a rocket-propelled sledge. Murphy had designed
transducers for the sledge, but after John Paul Stapp, an Air Force
doctor, had been subjected to about 35G in one test, Murphy found
that a technician had wired them in backwards and they hadn't given
any readings. Stapp is then supposed to have said something (the
accounts vary) along the lines of "If there are two or more ways to
do something and one of those results in a catastrophe, then
someone will do it that way". The project engineer working on the
tests, George E Nichols, noted this among a collection of "laws" he
had been amassing and named it after Murphy, even though Murphy
hadn't actually said it, because he had provoked it by proxy.

This story has been retold many times and a four-part article on
the background to it has just appeared in the Ig Nobel's journal,
the Annals of Improbable Research (link below). There's nothing new
about the famous Law in itself, of course. The form in which it is
now usually quoted, "If something can go wrong, it will", has long
been known to engineers as an awful warning that all possible
causes of misunderstanding among workers on a project must be
eliminated if disaster is to be prevented (we British have our own
version, Sod's Law).

Not everybody believes the official line, which makes the award of
an Ig Nobel for it somewhat provocative, even 54 years after the
supposed event. Barry Popik of the American Dialect Society has
researched it, but has found no reference in contemporary archives.
The first known use of the term was in an American publication
Aviation Mechanics Bulletin for 11 May 1955, in which a headline
read "'Backward' mechanics prove Murphy's Law"; it turned up in
Scientific American and the New York Times early in the following
year and from then on quickly achieved the iconic status in
American life that it retains. A similar law was attributed to one
O'Reilly in 1954, which might suggest an Irish joke in the making
(some people still think it is one). Until the story above was told
in the 1970s, nobody connected the law to the very real Captain
Edward Aloysius Murphy, who wasn't widely known. In fact, a 1962
book by seven US astronauts, We Seven asserted that Murphy was a
fictitious character in a US navy training cartoon. However, the
film was made in 1957, two years after the saying's first
appearance in print, so we can rule out that origin. Others claim
the eponymous Murphy dates from the 1930s, though without giving
firm evidence.

Much uncertainty remains about the origin of the saying. It's not
that anyone is doubting the story told by the three men (although,
as you might expect of an event remembered years later, details of
their stories conflict). The problem for historians is that without
an audit trail of recorded evidence it's not possible to say for
sure that the Captain Murphy of the story and the first appearance
in print of Murphy's Law are linked. It might well be, as one wag
remarked, that it wasn't Murphy, but another man of the same name.

The Ig Nobel home page is at http://www.improb.com/ig/ig-top.html.
The article, "Fastest Man on Earth", from the Annals of Improbable
Research, can be found at http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume9/v9i5/murphy/murphy0.html
October 1, 2004


Advances in weird science

By Roy Rivenburg, Times Staff Writer

If a herring asks you to pull his finger, be very afraid. That's one of the lessons derived from this year's Ig Nobel awards ceremony, an event that honors offbeat scientific achievements.

The winners were announced Thursday at a boisterous Harvard gala featuring Hula Hoop demonstrations, opera performances and scientists belting out karaoke.

The honorees included:

• A scientific investigation of the "Five-Second Rule," which claims it's safe to eat food that has been dropped on the floor if you pick it up within five seconds.

• A patent for bald spot comb-overs.

• A study that linked suicide with listening to country music.

• Research that suggests herring communicate by "breaking wind."

This was the 14th year for the Ig Nobels, which should not be confused with the more distinguished Nobel Prizes issued from Sweden. Ig Nobels are bestowed for accomplishments that "first make people laugh, then make them think," says Marc Abrahams, the guiding light behind the awards.

In the past, winners haven't been sure whether to feel elated or insulted about being selected. But this year's crop of Ig Nobelists seems mostly thrilled. Of the 10 winners, eight traveled to Boston at their own expense (or sent representatives) to collect their prize, a handcrafted trophy that is "always made of extremely cheap materials," Abrahams says. This year's trophy is a fake box of cereal called Ig Nobel-O's.

In the physics category, the prize went to Ramesh Balasubramaniam and Michael T. Turvey for their landmark study on "Coordination Modes in the Multisegmental Dynamics of Hula Hooping," a scholarly analysis of the bodily movements necessary to keep a Hula Hoop in motion.

"I don't think anyone had mapped the physics of the Hula Hoop," says Balasubramaniam, a professor of human kinetics at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Among the study's conclusions: Successful Hula Hoopers use "vertical suspensory activity" and "spatiotemporal patterning" of the lower limbs to keep the hoop "in steady oscillation parallel with the ground plane." Undoubtedly, this tip will show up in future instruction manuals issued by Wham-O.

Balasubramaniam admits his research might sound goofy, but says studying how the brain orchestrates such a complex task can pave the way for advances in robotics and rehabilitation of stroke victims.

However, the exhaustive analysis hasn't enabled Balasubramaniam to master the toy. "I'm terrible at it," he confessed in a telephone interview before the award ceremony.

The youngest Ig Nobel winner, 17-year-old Jillian Clarke, took the public health prize for researching the so-called Five-Second Rule during an internship at the University of Illinois.

To find out whether it really is safe to eat food that is quickly rescued after falling to the ground, she first tested bacteria levels on various floors at the university. "We took swabs from every floor on campus," she says. "Cafeterias, elevators, bathrooms, dorms."

To her surprise, no bacteria were detected. Next, she deliberately contaminated a few tiles with E. coli, then placed Gummi Bears and cookies on the tiles for several seconds. Result: The bacteria jumped to the food.

To round out the study, Clarke conducted a survey that found women were more likely than men to eat food that had been retrieved from the floor.

Perhaps the weirdest entry was a study on flatulent fish. Ben Wilson, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, was toiling in his lab one evening when an unexpected noise emanated from the herring aquarium. "At first, I thought someone was hiding in the cupboard pulling a prank," he recalls.

But when he turned up the volume on a microphone in the tank, the "raspberry" sound continued, accompanied by tiny air bubbles from the herrings' rear ends.

Next came a scientific journal article, and the delicate task of figuring out how to describe the passing of gas "without sounding too silly." Wilson and his colleagues devised such synonyms as "burst pulse sounds," "digestive system venting" and "bubble expulsion from the anal duct region."

Proving that great minds think alike, two Scandinavian researchers also stumbled across the phenomenon and also published a paper, on "herring bubble release."

Both teams theorized that herring, which possess a "very sophisticated" sense of hearing, were breaking wind as a form of communication.

It didn't take long for the jokes to start. "What, exactly, would a herring need to communicate?" wrote Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry. "I mean, we're talking about creatures with roughly the same IQ as a Tic Tac. They are not down there discussing Marcel Proust."

An ex-cop and his deceased father captured the Ig Nobel in engineering for their 1977 patent on a process to camouflage baldness.

"Like most of our good ideas, this one came over a gallon of homemade wine," says Donald J. Smith, 66.

The plan was to sell an instruction manual for the three-step comb-over method and a secret spray formula that held the hair in place. But the scheme never got off the ground.

Today, the patent is worthless, Smith says. Unless, of course, he sues Donald Trump for stealing it. "His hairstyle does look like my patent," Smith notes.

The 2004 psychology prize was nabbed by a pair of professors for a visual perception experiment called "Gorillas in Our Midst." It showed that when people are asked to focus on small details, they can miss the bigger picture, such as a man in a gorilla suit walking right through their line of sight. Videos of their experiments are posted at http://viscog.Beckman.uiuc.edu/djslab/demos.html.

The most disputed Ig Nobel was the medicine prize, for a journal article titled "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide." The report discovered suicide rates were higher in cities with a lot of country radio stations and suggested the downbeat themes in country lyrics pushed some listeners over the edge.

However, the conclusions were widely denounced — by country musicians (no surprise) and by fellow sociologists, who said the methodology was flawed.

The coveted Ig Nobel peace prize was given to the inventor of the karaoke machine, for presenting humanity with a new venue for "learning to experience and tolerate each other's limitations." Daisuke Inoue, who is widely blamed for the invention and who was recognized by Time magazine as one of Asia's most influential figures (along with Mao Tse-tung and Gandhi), was scheduled at press time to fly from Japan to accept his Ig Nobel.

No-shows at Thursday's award ceremony included Coca-Cola Co., which received the chemistry prize for inadvertently adding carcinogens to the British version of its Dasani bottled water, and the Vatican, which won the economics award for "outsourcing prayers to India."

According to news reports, a shortage of priests in America and Europe created a backlog of requests for Masses to be offered in memory of loved ones. To ease the crunch, some requests were routed to priests in India. However, several church officials said the "outsourcing" story was exaggerated. The practice of donating money for overseas Masses dates back centuries, and is commonly used by Roman Catholics to support missionary activities in poor nations, they explained.

Penguins’ pooping power scoops Ig Nobel prize

Penguins’ pooping power scoops Ig Nobel prize
00:30 07 October 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Jeff Hecht

How far penguins can poop and whether people can swim faster in syrup than water were among the sticky questions answered by winners of the 2005 Ig Nobel prizes.

The spoof awards, organised by the science humour journal, the Annals of Improbable Research, honour scientific achievements that "make people laugh – then think". They were presented at Harvard University's otherwise distinguished Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on Thursday.

Edward Cussler and Brian Gettelfinger, at the University of Minnesota, US, received the Chemistry Ig Nobel for resolving whether people can swim faster in syrup than water. The question arose as Gettelfinger, a student, wondered how to increase his speed as he trained for Olympic swimming trials.

So the pair set up an experiment in two 25-yard swimming pools on campus – requiring 22 separate levels of approval. They were offered 20 train cars’ worth of corn syrup to mix with water, but the city of Minneapolis ended that plan by demanding $20,000 since draining the syrup would overload the sewage system.

Instead, they stirred 310 kilograms of guar gum powder into one pool. "It wasn't pretty when we came in the next morning," Cussler told New Scientist. "It looked like diluted snot."

But that did not stop 16 volunteer swimmers. All swam two lengths in each pool, showering as they went from the syrupy pool to clean water. Timing the swimmers, Cussler found that the thicker liquid increased the power of their strokes as much as it increased the drag on their bodies, so it made no difference. "It was fun," he says, but in the end it was "totally useless".

Poopal velocity
An Ig Nobel for fluid dynamics was awarded for a theoretical analysis of penguin poop propulsion, conducted by Benno Meyer-Rochow of the International University of Bremen in Germany and Oulu University in Finland, and Jozsef Gal of Lorand Eötvös University in Hungary.

When nature calls, brooding chinstrap and Adélie penguins are reluctant to leave their nests and expose their eggs to the cold. Instead, they simply point their rear outward, lift their tail, and fire. The departing excreta typically reaches distances of about 40 centimetres.

Accounting for the bird's height, anal anatomy, and poopal velocity and viscosity, the researchers calculated that the internal pressures reach 10 to 60 kilopascals (0.1 to 0.6 atmospheres), well above the highest pressures humans can put to the task.

But is this not a rather trivial matter for serious scientists? "Actually, only a few people felt this," Meyer-Rochow told New Scientist. "And when we explained the responses from zookeepers, palaeontologists, engineers, human physiologists and so on, everybody understood that examining the physical properties of the release of fluids through small orifices was something of general importance."

Other prizes included:
• Literature – This celebrated the bold visions of the New Age story-tellers of Nigeria – purveyors of the so-called 419 email scam. Their vivid tales promise handsome rewards for assistance in recovering a great treasure that is rightfully theirs – or one that they stole fair and square.

• Economics – Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was lauded for her contribution to workplace productivity. She invented Clocky, a padded alarm clock that runs away on a pair of wheels and hides when its snooze alarm is pressed. By actually getting people out of bed, Clocky should add many productive hours to the workday – at least theoretically – the Ig Nobel committee says.

• Physics – This honours movement at a much slower pace – the “pitch drop” experiment which the late Thomas Parnell began at the University of Queensland in 1927, and which John Mainstone now continues. Pitch is a thick black tar which in theory is liquid, but seems to behave like a solid. To show it was a liquid, Parnell melted some into a funnel, where it cooled. Then he waited, and waited, and waited. The first drop took 8 years to fall, and the second took another nine. The eighth drop fell in 2000, and Mainstone is now waiting for the ninth.

Its the Mutt's Nuts

Dog testicles, penguin poop study win Ig Nobels

Fri Oct 7, 2005 10:47 AM ET11

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The inventor of artificial testicles for dogs, Nigerian Internet scammers and a team that calculated the pressures created when penguins poop won Ig Nobel prizes for 2005 on Thursday.

The spoof prizes, awarded by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, are presented at a ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the winners must try to explain their work in a minute or less.

While some awards clearly poke fun at current culture, others are meant to provoke debate about science, Annals editor Marc Abrahams said.

"Now in their fifteenth year, the Igs honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think," Abrahams said in a statement.

The Ig Nobel Prizes were handed to the winners by genuine Nobel laureates Dudley Herschbach (1986 Chemistry), William Lipscomb (1976 Chemistry), Robert Wilson (1978 Physics) and Sheldon Glashow (1979 Physics).

Harvard professor Roy Glauber, awarded a Nobel Prize in physics, has been a regular at the Ig Nobels for 10 years, sweeping paper airplanes thrown on the stage during the ceremony.

This year's winners include:

"Medicine" -- Gregg Miller of Oak Grove, Missouri, for inventing Neuticles -- artificial replacement testicles for dogs.

"Neuticles allow your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with neutering. With Neuticles -- It's like nothing ever changed!" reads Miller's Web site at http://www.neuticles.com.

"Literature" -- The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, "for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq." The scams are notorious for asking people to reveal their private bank information to help fictitious characters transfer large sums of money.

"Fluid Dynamics" -- Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oulu, Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Lorond Eotvos University in Hungary, for "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defecation," an actual study published in 2003 in the journal Polar Biology.

"Economics -- Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

"Neuticles allow your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with neutering. With Neuticles -- It's like nothing ever changed!"

Brilliant.For the pampered pooch that has everything.

Well almost everything. :oops:

This year's Ig Nobels: link

My personal fave
While the conclusions of a group of scientists from Valencia University and the University of Illes Balears in Spain are not immediately clear, the judges have deemed their study Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature worthy of the chemistry prize.

Not clear? NOT CLEAR? How can this be? Any fool can see how ultrasonic velocity in cheddar would be affected by temperature, just do the maths!
Here we go again!
Teen repellent is Ig Nobel winner

A device that repels teenagers has won the peace prize at this year's Ig Nobels - the spoof alternative to the rather more sober Nobel prizes.
Welshman Howard Stapleton's device makes a high-pitched noise inaudible to adults but annoying to teenagers.

Other winners included a US-Israeli study into how a finger up the rectum cures hiccups and a report into why woodpeckers do not get headaches.

All the research is real and published in often prestigious journals.

Unlike the recipients of the more illustrious awards, Ig Nobel winners get no cash reward.

Nevertheless eight of the 10 winners this year paid their own way to receive their prizes in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Marc Abrahams, editor of science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which co-sponsors the awards, said: "The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology."

The winners are given a one-minute acceptance speech, the time policed by a loud eight-year-old girl.

This year's winners included:

Maths: How many photos must be taken to almost ensure no-one in a group shot has their eyes closed, by Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes

Ornithology: Why woodpeckers do not get headaches, by Ivan Schwab and the late Philip RA May

Nutrition: Why dung beetles are fussy eaters, by Wasmia al-Houty and Faten al-Mussalam

Acoustics: Why the sound of fingernails scraping on blackboards is so annoying, by D Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand

Medicine: The Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage, by Francis Fesmire, Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan and Arie Oliven.

Another look:
14 October 2006
NewScientist.com news service

The 2006 Ig Nobel prizes

FEEDBACK'S favourite prizes, the Ig Nobels, were handed out last week at Harvard University in a ceremony produced by the Annals of Improbable Research that featured a mini-opera, Inertia makes the world go round.

We can't help feeling a little proud that we spotted a couple of the prize-winning achievements ourselves. One was for the peace prize, which went to the inventor of cellphone ring tones that teenagers can hear but their teachers can't (2 September). The other was for the literature prize, which went to Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University for his learned tome "Consequences of erudite vernacular utilised irrespective of necessity", the title of which is an example of what it is about (20 May).

In addition, The Last Word, our friendly rival on the opposite page, years ago pondered the question of why dry spaghetti breaks into more than two pieces which then fly into the most inconvenient places possible (25 April 1998 and 12 December 1998). Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie have now answered this question to earn the Ig Nobel physics prize.

There are some things we are proud we have not done, one of which is exploring the new approach to stopping hiccups which scooped the medicine prize. Memory tells of folk cures that involved surprising or distracting the sufferer, and applying the prize-winning technique would certainly do that. It is memorably summarised by the identical titles of two separate papers, "Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage," which earned Ig Nobel prizes for Francis Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and Majed Odeh of Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.

Nor had we contemplated the surprisingly finicky dietary tastes of Scarabaeus cristatus, the study of which garnered the nutrition prize for Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Authority. Not just any old dung will do for this dung beetle. It definitely prefers the more fluid dung of horses to the drier dung from camels or sheep, and will settle for dog or fox dung only if no passing herbivores have been kind enough to leave its dinner.

Mosquitoes are also fussy in their tastes, but their penchant is for human foot odour, entomologist Bart Knols of the Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands has learned. Hot on the trail of an odoriferous way to divert the mosquitoes, Knols found that for them the scent of Limburger cheese is enticingly like that of human feet, a discovery that earned him the Ig Nobel in biology. Alas for mosquito researchers, residents of malarial climes and the makers of Limburger cheese, in the real world the cheese was less enticing than sweaty feet after all.

If you don't want to dig into dung or smelly feet, you could always listen to fingernails screeching on a blackboard, which has led to the acoustics prize for Randolph Blake, now at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and former colleagues Lynn Halpern and James Hillenbrand. Curious why that sound makes us shiver, Blake tested volunteers and found that, for example, the scraping of metal on metal was not nearly as annoying. At first he suspected it was the high frequencies in the screech that caused discomfort, but experiments showed it was really frequencies in the middle of the hearing range. The psychological basis of the reaction remains a mystery, but Blake says chimpanzee warning cries "are remarkably similar to fingernails on a blackboard". So perhaps we shiver because it sounds like an ancestral warning that a sabre-toothed tiger is on the prowl.

Banging your head against the wall might make a more pleasant sound if it didn't hurt so much. But that doesn't bother pileated woodpeckers - they can head bang up to 12,000 times a day without getting a headache. Explaining how this is possible earned the ornithology prize for the late Philip May of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis. May discovered that the bird had a thick skull made of spongy bone which held the contents tightly in place, just as styrofoam blocks keep objects from bouncing around inside boxes. "It's the bouncing that causes damage," Schwab explains. He believes woodpeckers evolved small brains to make them more resistant to impact, although we wonder if birds of little brain were merely the ones most likely to become head-bangers in the first place.

Finally, the mathematics prize went to Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for their solution to the problem of how many photos you must take of a group to be sure you get one where nobody blinks. The bigger the crowd, they found, the less likely it gets, becoming virtually impossible for a crowd of 50 - and, as Murphy's law predicts, telling people not to blink makes them blink more.

http://www.newscientist.com/backpage.ns ... 732.200_fb
Sword swallowing study wins alternative Nobel prize
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 7:01pm BST 04/10/2007

A British radiologist who discovered that sword swallowers suffer "major complications" when they are distracted or while gulping down more than one blade has been awarded an alternative Nobel prize.

Brian Witcombe, a consultant radiologist at Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust, has joined the pantheon of scientists whose research on "gay bombs", bottomless bowls of soup, giving jet lagged hamsters Viagra and stranger things besides have been deemed sufficiently quirky to win an "Ig Nobel".

Mr Witcombe attended the ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre before an audience of around 1200, with thousands more watching on the web.

The prizes were handed out by real laureates during the annual event produced by the science humour magazine, "Annals of Improbable Research".

With Dan Meyer of The Sword Swallowers Association International, Mr Witcombe was cited for his penetrating medical report "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects" that appeared in the British Medical Journal last Christmas.

They studied the fate of 46 sword swallowers. "Sore throats are common, particularly while the skill is being learnt or when performances are too frequent," they wisely observed.

"Sword swallowers without healthcare coverage expose themselves to financial as well as physical risk."

The physics prize went to Profs Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan of Harvard University and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

Complementing this pioneering work was a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds, which earned the biology prize for Prof Johanna van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands.

And for her efforts to extract vanilla fragrance from cow dung, the chemistry prize was scooped by Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Centre of Japan.

A ice cream shop located near the Ig Nobel ceremony, Toscanini's Ice Cream, created a new ice cream flavour in honour, called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist."

The linguistics prize went to Juan Manuel Toro, Josep Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés of the University of Barcelona for their remarkable discovery that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.

Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Australia, won the literature prize for her study of the word "the" - and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order; the peace prize went to The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, for instigating research on the so-called "gay bomb" to make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other; the nutrition prize was lapped up by Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self- refilling, bottomless bowl of soup; the economics prize went to Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them; and the aviation prize to Patricia Agostino, Santiago Plano and Diego Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.