Like the research that led to the timely invention of a brassiere with cups that in an emergency, such as a swine flu pandemic, can quickly become two protective face masks. Or research that studied why full-term pregnant women don’t tip over.
OK, so maybe they won’t win a Nobel Prize with their fun scientific research, but they can be proud winners of an Ig Nobel Prize. That’s what these two studies earned at the “19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony” at Harvard University on Oct. 1.
The Ig Nobel Prizes, sponsored by Harvard and the magazine “Annals of Improbable Research,” “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative … and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
For example, the 2009 prize winners in veterinary medicine were British scientists Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson, who demonstrated that cows with names produce more milk than nameless cows. Now, that’s udderly fascinating science!
The prize in human medicine was awarded to Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., for his analytical tenacity in cracking the knuckles of his left hand, but not of his right, for more than 60 years in order to investigate whether knuckle cracking leads to arthritis. It didn’t, but his left hand is now the size of a gorilla’s.
Also recognized was the important work undertaken by three Mexican chemists who discovered how to create diamonds from liquid – “specifically from tequila.” Not mentioned at the ceremony was exactly how much tequila the scientists had to consume before they “saw” diamonds.
But speaking of DUI – Discovering Under the Influence – the most prestigious award, the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, was bestowed upon three Swiss scientists who determined by formidable experimentation whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full or empty beer bottle.
I’m not sure whether “better” means more effective or less traumatic, but since the study earned the PEACE Prize, I’ll assume the latter. How insignificant President Obama’s silly Nobel Peace Prize seems in comparison, doesn’t it.
In fact, past winners of the Ig Nobel Peace Prize are testimony to the highest achievements of science. For example, the 2008 Peace Prize went to the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland “for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.”
And the 2007 Peace Prize was awarded to the U.S. Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for its humanitarian attempts to develop a chemical weapon dubbed the “gay bomb,” intended to make enemy soldiers become sexually attractive to one another. Their inspiration was probably the 1960s slogan “Make love, not war.”
See, we need to help our bored teens understand how crucial scientific research is for the betterment of mankind – and plants.
Indeed, when people can walk around in public with bras on their faces, thank science.