The creation of diamonds from tequila, and the invention of a bra that converts into not one, but two gas masks were among the achievements highlighted at the annual Ig Nobel award at Harvard University.
Given annually for "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think," the Ig Nobel Prizes are quite a bit less prestigious than the real Nobels, but also quite a bit funnier.
The ceremony took place at Harvard University, to be given their prizes by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research. The coveted prizes were handed out by real Nobel laureates. This year's recipients were allowed no more than 60 seconds to deliver their acceptance speech, a time limit enforced by an eight-year-old girl.
"Dr. Elena Bodnar, who won the Public Health prize for inventing a bra that instantly converts into a pair of gas masks, gave a demonstration involving herself and several Nobel laureates," the Ig Nobel announcement explains.
In case you were wondering, Professor Martin Chalfie, winner of the Nobel chemistry award in 2008, was the prize in the "Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate" contest. Improbable Research editor and master of ceremonies Marc Abrahams closed the night with the traditional sendoff: "If you didn't win an Ig Nobel prize tonight — and especially if you did — better luck next year."
Here is the full list of the 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes, with text courtesy of Improbable Research:
VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
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.
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.
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.
PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, US, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, US, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
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".
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 gas masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
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).
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 percent in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.