The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar
The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize winners were introduced Thursday night, October 1, at the ceremony held at Harvard’s Sanders theater. At the 2009 ceremony, Public Health Prize winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention — a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander. She is assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize Winners.The 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October 1, at the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. On Saturday afternoon, October 3, the new winners explained their work, at the Ig Informal Lectures at MIT. VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.REFERENCE: “Exploring Stock Managers’ Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production,” Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69. DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473.WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Peter Rowlinson. 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. PEACE PRIZE: 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. REFERENCE: “Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?” Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42. DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Stephan Bolliger. ECONOMICS PRIZE: 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.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila. REFERENCE: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila,” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Javier Morales and Miguel Apátiga. MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years. REFERENCE: “Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?”, Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949 50. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Donald Unger PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over. REFERENCE: “Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins,” Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Katherine Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman. LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means “Driving License”. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: [Karolina Lewestam, a Polish citizen and holder of a Polish driver’s license, speaking on behalf of all her fellow Polish licensed drivers, expressed her good wishes to the Irish police service. PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander. REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.” MATHEMATICS PRIZE: 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 ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Elena Bodnar. REFERENCE: Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy — Extraordinary Measures for Extraordinary Challenges, Gideon Gono, ZPH Publishers, Harare, 2008, ISBN 978-079-743-679-4. BIOLOGY PRIZE: 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: “Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces,” Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.] REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda” [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Fumiaki Taguchi. Improbable research is research that makes people laugh and then think. Improbable Research is the name of our organization. We collect (and sometimes conduct) improbable research. We publish a magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research, and we administer the Ig Nobel Prizes. Things We Do: Our publications and activities include: * the magazine (every 2 months) * the newsletter (every month) * the newspaper column (every week) * the blog (every day) * the Ig Nobel Prizes (every year) * the TV series * the live shows * the books. Why We Do It: Our goal is to make people laugh, then make them think. We also hope to spur people’s curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what’s important and what’s not, and what’sreal and what’s not — in science and everywhere else? “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but, ‘That’s funny…” —Isaac Asimov “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” —Sherlock Holmes. The Magazine. The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) is a magazine printed on genuine paper—and also in digital form on the web. It’s packed with genuine, improbable research culled from more than 20,000 science, medical, technical andacademic journals. We also publish original research, and some concoctions.
The magazine is open access, although one authority figure says it’s not. Here are some classic articles. Every issue includes our Teachers’Guide. If you’d like to submit an article or a letter for publication, please do. The Ig Nobel Prizes. The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think. The winners come to a gala ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, and then give public lectures at MIT. Who We Are: Staff: Our staff is tiny: Editor Marc Abrahams, European Bureau Chief Kees Moeliker, and other improbable individuals. Mostly, Improbable Research is a vast, happy, open conspiracy of many volunteers (scientists, journalists, teachers, students, and all sorts of other people) in many countries. Editorial Board: Our editorial board consists of fifty-odd eminent scientists, doctors, etc. from aroundthe world, including several Nobel Prize winners and a convictedfelon. Improbable Research is produced by the people who founded and organize the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. (We are also the very same people who from 1955-1994 founded and edited the Journal of Irreproducible Results. In 1994, when the Journal’s publisher decided to abandon the magazine, we decided to abandon that publisher. Unable to get use of the old name, we started a brand new publication — the Annals of Improbable Research. And yes, we are AIRheads.) Offices: Improbable Research is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. In 2006 the Improbable Research European Bureau opened in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. What Others Say. Our press clippings are numerous. Dip in for some enjoyable reading. Here is a tiny sampling: ABC News, Times of London, El Pais, Wired, Nature Network, The Age, CBS Sunday Morning News [with video], Wired News, The California Tech, El Commercio, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Sport et Vie, The Wall Street Journal, The Star, The Rocky Mountain News, Universum, Journal of the American Medical Association, Alternet, MSNBC, USA Today,CBS News [with video], CNN [with video], Shargh, Velcro City Tourist Board, …, and many more. news from improbable.com
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