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Friday, October 9, 2009

Ig Nobel Prize

A woman's bra which in an emergency can double as a pair of gas masks has won one of the awards handed out at the prestigious Harvard University for the year's most eccentric research. The Ig Nobels, a tongue-in-cheek homage to their Scandinavian counterparts, were announced just days before the Nobel committee in Stockholm began awarding its prestigious awards on Monday. The bra that can be turned into two protective face masks -- one for the wearer and the other for whoever else may need one -- won its inventors Elena Bodnar, Raphael Lee and Sandra Marijan of Chicago the Public Health award. The patent states that each of the bra's cup sections is fitted with a filter device, meaning the wearer can whip it off, and detach each section to fit it over the face.

Previous prizes were won by three researchers at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico -- Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor Castano -- for creating diamonds out of tequila; by the Irish police for writing out more than 50 traffic tickets to one Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means "driver's license"; by Stephan Bollinger and other doctors at the University of Bern in Switzerland for demonstrating that empty beer bottles are more likely to crack heads in a bar-room brawl than full ones; by two researchers from Newcastle University in Britain who discovered that cows with names produce more milk; by Brian Witcombe, of Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and Dan Meyer for their probing work on the health consequences of swallowing a sword; by a US-Chile team who ironed out the problem of how sheets become wrinkled; by Dr Johanna van Bronswijk of the Netherlands for carrying out a creepy crawly census of all of the mites, insects, spiders, ferns and fungi that share our beds; by Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, for developing a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow dung; by a University of Barcelona team for showing that rats are unable to tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and somebody speaking Dutch backwards; by Glenda Browne of Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the", and how it can flummox those trying to put things into alphabetical order; by the US Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among enemy troops; by Brian Wansink of Cornell University for investigating the limits of human appetite by feeding volunteers a self-refilling, "bottomless" bowl of soup; by Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taiwan for patenting a device that can catch bank robbers by dropping a net over them; and by a National University of Quilmes, Argentina, team for discovering that impotency drugs can help hamsters to recover from jet lag.

Three cheers to science!