Ig Nobels Honor Weird Academic Achievements
by Bob Gordon
November 16, 2009
The Ig Nobel prizes – a play on the name of the Nobel prizes awarded every October from Stockholm and Oslo – are given out by the Harvard-based humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research.
They are co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard Computer Society.
Here’s a brief rundown of this years 10 winners.
Veterinary medicine: Drs Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson say they have shown in their study in Anthrozoos (“A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People and Animals”!!) that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual farmers can increase their annual milk yield – by over 60 gallons.
Medicine: Donald Unger for cracking just the knuckles on his left hand for 60 years to see if knuckle cracking contributes to arthritis. He didn’t get arthritis in either hand, leading him to conclude there was “no apparent relationship.”
Public health: Elena Bodnar, Raphael Lee and Sandra Marijan for inventing a brassiere than can be converted into a pair of gas masks.
Peace: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl for investigating whether it is better to be struck over the head with a full beer bottle or with an empty beer bottle. In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Bollinger summarized his findings, “”The empty beer bottles were much sturdier than the full ones. However, although the empty bottles would therefore be better clubs, both full and empty bottles suffice in breaking the human skull.”
Economics: Executives of four Icelandic banks for showing how tiny banks can become huge banks, and then become tiny banks again.
Chemistry: Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor Castano for creating diamonds out of tequila.
Physics: Katherine Whitcome, Liza Shapiro and Daniel Lieberman for figuring out why pregnant women don’t tip over.
Literature: The Irish national police for issuing 50 tickets to one Prawo Jazdy, which in Polish means “driver’s license.”
Mathematics: Gideon Gono and the Zimbabwean Reserve Bank for printing bank notes in denominations from 1 cent to $100 trillion.
Biology: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei for demonstrating that bacteria in panda poop can help reduce kitchen waste by 90 percent.