Monday, October 12, 2009
Oh, The Ignominy Of It!
I'd never heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes until just recently when it was reported that they were handed out at Harvard University. These are apparently awarded for "scientific achievements that cannot and should not be reproduced." Here are some of the highlights regarding the winners.
A Thousand Oaks, California, doctor won the Ig Nobel medicine prize for his firsthand research into arthritis in fingers. As a child, Donald Unger was always warned by his elders that cracking his knuckles would lead to arthritis in his fingers. To test that theory, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand, but not the right hand, every day for more than 60 years. His conclusion? That cracking has no effect. I wonder what other old wives tales our mothers fed us growing up?
The Ig Nobel Prize for peace went to a group at the University of Bern in Switzerland for its bar room brawl-related research. The doctors, several of whom are forensic pathologists, had been asked to testify in court cases whether a skull can be broken by smashing a beer bottle on someone's head -- and whether that is more easily accomplished with a full bottle or an empty one.
More Ig Nobel research suggests that farmers can benefit from improved human-bovine relations. Researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom won the veterinary-medicine prize for their work showing that "Bessie" is likely to produce more milk than "No. 5863329." In other words, cows with names are better producers than those without names.
In Japan, a team at the Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara won the biology prize for "demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90 percent in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas." How would you have liked working on that team?
The physics prize went to researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the University of Texas, and Harvard for "analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over" in their paper "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins." Okey-dokey.
In a modern-day alchemy experiment, researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico received the chemistry prize for turning tequila into diamonds. Well, sort of. They weren't exactly diamonds, not the kind that are a girl's best friend, but rather diamond films that could be an economical component in electrical insulators. Dang, who knew?
The public-health prize was awarded to inventors who received a patent for a brassiere that can be converted into a pair of gas masks. Do you think Victoria's Secret will sell it?
The economics prize was awarded to officials from four Icelandic banks "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."
The mathematics prize went to the 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 1 cent to 100 trillion dollars.
And finally, the prize for literature was given to Ireland's police service for writing more than 50 traffic tickets to "the most frequent driving offender in the country -- Prawo Jazdy -- whose name in Polish means "Driver's License."
Have a great Monday, and try not to do anything ignoble. And if you do, be sure and show us your prize.