Economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman helped unveil a new, lifesaving invention at the 2009 Ig Nobel awards ceremony last week - a pink brassiere that doubles as a pair of filtering gas masks.
Other notable winners included an Ig economics prize to the directors, executives and auditors of four Icelandic banks.
'For demonstrating that tiny banks can rapidly transform themselves into big banks, and vice versa,' said Marc Abrahams, who founded the Ig ceremony and is the master of ceremonies.
'The winners could not - or would not - be with us tonight,' Abrahams added.
These dubious achievements were two of nine feted at the zany ceremony held annually at Harvard University that pokes fun at questionable scientific research. The Ig winners come from all over the world and travel at their own expense to Harvard to accept the prizes, no doubt because they are handed out by real Nobel laureates like Krugman.
The fashionable gas mask was designed and patented by Elena Bodnar, who noted that bra cups, no matter what the size, are the perfect shape to fit easily over the mouth and nose. Filtering masks could have helped victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and people near the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City, she said.
'You have to be prepared all the time, at any place, at any moment, and practically every woman wears a bra,' Bodnar said.
'It only takes 25 seconds for any woman to use,' she said. 'Five seconds to convert and wear her own mask, and 20 seconds to wonder who the lucky man is to wear the second mask.'
Bodnar gave take-home samples of her invention to Krugman and fellow Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics 2001) and Orhan Pamuk (Literature 2006), who dutifully demonstrated the device for the raucous audience.
Other Nobel laureates who handed out the Ig prizes included Martin Chalfie (Chemistry 2008), Roy Glauber (Physics 2005), Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry 1986), William Lipscomb (chemistry, 1976), Orhan Pamuk (literature 2006), Rich Roberts (Physiology/Medicine 1993) and Frank Wilczek (physics, 2004). Chalfie was the prize in the 'win a date with a Nobel laureate' contest.
The evening's theme was risk and included a mini-opera that made fun of big banks, and a one-minute keynote speech by scientist Benoit Mandelbrot, known for fractal geometry and using mathematics to show how financial markets are fraught with risk. The ceremony was punctuated by Mandelbrot and other Nobel laureates who kept a poker game going on stage.
The audience laughed, booed and constantly threw paper airplanes onto the stage.
Each Ig winner was allotted 60 seconds to give an acceptance speech, a time enforced by Miss Sweetie Poo, a little girl in a frock.
Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Britain, accepted an Ig prize for his team's research showing that cows that are named and patted give more milk.
A Swiss team won the Ig prize for peace for their experimental research examining whether it is better to be smashed in the head with an empty beer bottle or a full one.
'It turns out that an empty bottle is actually more capable of inflicting serious damage,' said Stephan Bolliger of the University of Bern, who accepted the prize.
His team's study, 'Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull?' was published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.
Not to be outdone, a team from Mexico won the Ig chemistry prize for showing that diamonds can in fact be made from tequila. Javier Morales and Miguel Apátiga accepted the prize on behalf of the team, from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
The team focused on tequila because it just happens to have the right atomic composition to grow diamonds, Apatiga said.
Morales and Apatiga made a dramatic on-stage appearance by jumping through an orange curtain held up by two of many on-stage helpers, human spotlights, people coloured head-to-toe in silver and toting flashlights, among them.
'Well, what a night,' Apatiga said as he went on to joke about tequila, diamonds and electron scanning microscopes. The scientist wore a giant sombrero with Mexico emblazoned across the front.
If you've ever been told to stop cracking your knuckles because doing so would give you arthritis, don't worry, now you have scientific research on your side. Scientist Donald Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, U.S., found there is no relationship between arthritis and cracking knuckles.
According to his study published in the journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand every day for 60 years and did not crack the knuckles on his right hand. He does not have arthritis in either hand, he says.
Panda poop was the subject of research that won the Ig biology prize. The research demonstrated that kitchen waste can be reduced 90 percent or more by infusing it with bacteria that thrives in the feces of giant pandas.
Fumiaki Taguchi accepted the prize for the team, from Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan.
A team from Harvard University received an Ig physics prize for discovering that pregnant women do not tip over because their spines are specially adapted for pregnancy, while the Ig in literature went to the Irish 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 license'.
Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, won the Ig in mathematics for having his bank print bank notes ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.
'If you didn't win an Ig Nobel prize tonight - and especially if you did - better luck next year,' Abrahams said in the traditional closing motto of the evening.
© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
Latest News Headlines
Read the latest news stories:
- Q&A: Crisis Escalates as International Community Fails Syria Saturday, May 18, 2013
- Explosives Shatter Lives in Kashmir Saturday, May 18, 2013
- Has Caribbean Diplomacy Lost Its Mojo? Saturday, May 18, 2013
- Nuclear Iran Unlikely to Tilt Regional Power Balance – Report Saturday, May 18, 2013
- Videla Dies in Prison - a Victory Against Impunity Friday, May 17, 2013
- U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arsenals Cling to Bygone Era Friday, May 17, 2013
- Film on Sexual Abuse Wins at Colombia-Venezuela Festival Friday, May 17, 2013
- Official Bullying Lurks Behind Prep for Olympics in Brazil Friday, May 17, 2013
- Pioneering Italian Town Leads Europe in Waste Recycling Friday, May 17, 2013
- Civil Society Under Attack Around the World Friday, May 17, 2013