Friday, October 05, 2007


It brings a tear to the eyes - at least the prize handed out to Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, who developed a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavoring from cow dung. This is something the world has been waiting for!

The prize is among other - how shall we say - unusual awards known as the Ig Nobel Prize handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research in their ongoing quest to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology.”

O-kay. We'll drink to that. Actually, maybe not.

Among the other prize winners was a team at Quilmes National University in Argentina, who took home the honors in the aviation category for finding that - wait for it - hamsters given Viagra needed 50% less time to recover from a six-hour time zone change. This vital information should be of great interest to rodents that fly the friendly skies. I mean...really.

In the medical sphere, the prize for medicine went to radiologist Brian Witcombe at Gloucestershire Royal NHS foundation trust for his study of the vocational risks of sword swallowing Moreover, “sore throats - ’sword throats’ - occur when swallowers are learning, when performances are repeated frequently, or when odd-shaped or multiple swords are used,” he concluded. This conclusion is all the more interesting given the means in which they arrived at this. Who were the subjects and what were they given to partake in this experiment? Equally fascinating, are they still alive and what did they do with the leftover swords?

Juan Manuel Toro, Josep Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Barcelona University, collected the linguistics Ig Nobel for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards (but only sometimes!). Now this begs the question as to how the researchers actually found rats that understood Japanese AND Dutch and then determining if they could distinguish the difference when speaking Japanese and Dutch backwards/forwards... Oh who cares anyway!

Back state-side, the U.S. Air Force’s Wright Laboratory in Ohio took the peace prize for its 1994 research into a “gay bomb” that could deploy a chemical substance that would turn the enemy’s front lines into an orgy. Unlike most of the other winners, no one from the lab showed up for the presentation. Perhaps they were other-wise occupied one ponders?

The Biology honors went to Dr. Johanna van Bronswijk of the Netherlands for carrying out a census of all of the mites, insects, spiders, ferns and fungi that share our beds. No mention of numbers acquired in the mite research, which could be a good or bad sign. Then again there could have been duplication given their propensity to jump around. Was this research conducted world-wide or locally?

Now in as far as Economics go, here is something that has some merit or at least logic. Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taiwan presumably patented a device that can catch bank robbers by dropping a net over them. Oh the inventiveness of this device!

Can't wait for next year's prizes. Got any ideas?

Writers & Friends

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