So much more fun than next week’s boring Swedish version, the winners of the Ig Nobel prizes were announced last night.
Rewarding research that “cannot, or should not, be repeated”, the awards are hosted by the Harvard journal Annals of Improbable Research.
The Veterinary Medicine prize went to Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless. Catherine Douglas was unable to travel because she recently gave birth; she sent a photo of herself, her new daughter dressed in a cow suit, and a cow.
The Peace prize was awarded to Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle. The answer is that while empty bottles are sturdier, both are pretty bad.
The Economics prize went to the directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — 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.
Donald L Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, won the medicine prize for a 60-year attempt to prove his mother wrong, and that cracking his knuckles would not cause arthritis. Showing remarkable determination, he diligently cracked the knuckles of his left hand only, every day for six decades. Result? Mother didn’t know best.
The Physics prize went to Katherine K Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel E Lieberman of Harvard University and Liza J Shapiro of the University of Texas, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
Ireland’s entire police service shares the Literature prize for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy. The name in Polish means “Driving License”.
Elena N Bodnar, Raphael C Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago scooped the Public Health prize for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
The Maths prize went to Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.
The Biology prize was awarded to Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90 percent in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.