Friday, October 2, 2009

The Ig Nobels are out! And the winners are....

If you haven't heard, the 2009 Ig Nobels have been given. The Ig Nobels are one of my favorite yearly treats. They are given to research that "first make people laugh, and then make them think."

The prizes "celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

And the winners are...

Veterinary medicine: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, UK, for showing that cows with names give more milk than cows that are nameless. Hear that, Bessie?
Reference:Bertenshaw, C., & Rowlinson, P. (2009). Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human–Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 22 (1), 59-69 DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473

Biology: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
Reference: Taguchi, F. (2001). Microbial treatment of kitchen refuse with enzyme-producing thermophilic bacteria from Giant Panda feces. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, 92 (6) DOI: 10.1016/S1389-1723(01)80326-1

Medicine: Donald L Unger of Thousand Oaks, California, US, for investigating if knuckle-cracking causes arthritis of the fingers by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand but not his right hand every day for more than 60 years. Now that is dedication to a study! It doesn't, by the way.
Reference: Donald L. Unger (1998). Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis of the fingers? Arthritis & Rheumatism Arthritis & Rheumatism, 41 (5), 949-950

Economics: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks have received the Ig Nobel in Economics for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa - and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

Physics: Katherine K Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel E Lieberman of Harvard University and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas were given the Ig Nobel in Physics for analytically determining why pregnant women do not tip over... most of the time.
Reference:Whitcome, K., Shapiro, L., & Lieberman, D. (2007). Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins Nature, 450 (7172), 1075-1078 DOI: 10.1038/nature06342

Chemistry: Javier Morales and his associates from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma in Mexico have received the Ig Nobel in Chemistry for creating diamond film from tequila. One diamond film, two diamond films, three diamond films... FLOOR!
Reference: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, & Victor M. Castaño (2008). Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila - arXiv: 0806.1485v1

Literature: The Ig Nobel in Literature goes to Ireland's police service for writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country - Prawo Jazdy - whose name in Polish means "Driving Licence".

Public Health: Elena N Bodnar and her team from Chicago have won the Ig Nobel in Public Health for inventing a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks - one for the wearer and one to be given to a needy bystander. Take that, bioterrorists!
Reference: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.”

Mathematics: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, has received the Ig Nobel prize in Math for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers by having his bank print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars. Now you'll never need change!
Reference: Zimbabwe's Casino Economy — Extraordinary Measures for Extraordinary Challenges, Gideon Gono, ZPH Publishers, Harare, 2008, ISBN 978-079-743-679-4.

And, last but not least:

Peace: The Ig Nobel Peace Prize goes to Stephan Bolliger and his team from the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle. In case you were wondering, both can fracture your skull.
Reference: Bolliger, S., Ross, S., Oesterhelweg, L., Thali, M., & Kneubuehl, B. (2009). Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull? Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16 (3), 138-142 DOI: 10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013

I can't wait to see who will walk away with the prizes next year. Perhaps these guys have a shot at the Physics prize:
Kent, R., Forman, J., & Bostrom, O. (2009). Is There Really a “Cushion Effect”?: A Biomechanical Investigation of Crash Injury Mechanisms in the Obese Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.315