IG Nobel Prizes

So after the Physics Nobel Prize Post, I felt it would be necessary to point these out as well. For those of you who don’t know what the IG Nobel Prizes are…well, I think you’ll figure it out.

Oh, one last thing. These are all awarded by The Annals of Improbable Research, which is an institution like (heh, sort-of) The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences which awards the Chemistry and Physics Nobels, or the The Norwegian Nobel Institute which awards the Peace Nobel.

Here we go:

MEDICINE:
Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects.”
REFERENCE: “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects,” Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer, British Medical Journal, December 23, 2006, vol. 333, pp. 1285-7.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer

PHYSICS:
L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.
REFERENCES:”Wrinkling of an Elastic Sheet Under Tension,” E. Cerda, K. Ravi-Chandar, L. Mahadevan, Nature, vol. 419, October 10, 2002, pp. 579-80.
“Geometry and Physics of Wrinkling,” E. Cerda and L. Mahadevan, Physical Review Letters, fol. 90, no. 7, February 21, 2003, pp. 074302/1-4.
“Elements of Draping,” E. Cerda, L. Mahadevan and J. Passini, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 101, no. 7, 2004, pp. 1806-10.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca’s sister Mariela.

BIOLOGY:
Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night.
REFERENCES: “Huis, Bed en Beestjes” [House, Bed and Bugs], J.E.M.H. van Bronswijk, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, vol. 116, no. 20, May 13, 1972, pp. 825-31.
“Het Stof, de Mijten en het Bed” [Dust, Mites and Bedding]. J.E.M.H. van Bronswijk Vakblad voor Biologen, vol. 53, no. 2, 1973, pp. 22-5.
“Autotrophic Organisms in Mattress Dust in the Netherlands,” B. van de Lustgraaf, J.H.H.M. Klerkx, J.E.M.H. van Bronswijk, Acta Botanica Neerlandica, vol. 27, no. 2, 1978, pp 125-8.
“A Bed Ecosystem,” J.E.M.H. van Bronswijk, Lecture Abstracts — 1st Benelux Congress of Zoology, Leuven, November 4-5, 1994, p. 36.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk

CHEMISTRY:
Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin — vanilla fragrance and flavoring — from cow dung.
REFERENCE: “Novel Production Method for Plant Polyphenol from Livestock Excrement Using Subcritical Water Reaction,” Mayu Yamamoto, International Medical Center of Japan.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Mayu Yamamoto
PRESS NOTE: Toscanini’s Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The flavor is called “Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist.”

LINGUISTICS:
Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.
REFERENCE: “Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats,” Juan M. Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, vol. 31, no. 1, January 2005, pp 95-100.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners could not travel to the ceremony, so they instead delivered their acceptance speech via recorded video

LITERATURE:
of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, 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.
REFERENCE: “The Definite Article: Acknowledging ‘The’ in Index Entries,” Glenda Browne, The Indexer, vol. 22, no. 3 April 2001, pp. 119-22.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Glenda Browne

NUTRITION:
Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.
REFERENCE: “Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake,” Brian Wansink, James E. Painter and Jill North, Obesity Research, vol. 13, no. 1, January 2005, pp. 93-100.
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink, Bantom Books, 2006, ISBN 0553804340.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Wansink.

ECONOMICS:
Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent #6,219,959, granted on April 24, 2001, for a “net trapping system for capturing a robber immediately.”

If that crap can get patented…Mitch, I think we need to revist that patent.

AVIATION:
Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.
REFERENCE: “Sildenafil Accelerates Reentrainment of Circadian Rhythms After Advancing Light Schedules,” Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 23, June 5 2007, pp. 9834-9. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Diego A. Golombek

And My Personal Favourite (remember, this is for the PEACE prize):

PEACE:
The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon — the so-called “gay bomb” — that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.
REFERENCE: “Harassing, Annoying, and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals,” Wright Laboratory, WL/FIVR, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, June 1, 1994.

So take off your hats and raise your glasses to these brave and ignobel scientists, wasting our hard won funding, and pushing the very edge of our understanding of useless crap. Cheers.

Maz

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