Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Review: The Ig Nobel Prizes

This falls under the category of bathroom literature. Not that the contents are particularly low brow. I mean that each section is just a couple of pages.

The Ig Nobel awards are awarded each year to reward the strangest, silliest, or just plain screwed up research done each year. It's hard to explain, really.

Here's the list of winners for 2007
* Aviation: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek, for discovering that hamsters recover from jetlag more quickly when given Viagra.
* Biology: Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk, for taking a census of all the mites and other life forms that live in people's beds.
* Chemistry: Mayu Yamamoto for extracting vanilla flavour from cow dung.
* Economics: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, for patenting a device to catch bank robbers by ensnaring them in a net.[8]
* Linguistics: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, for determining that rats sometimes can't distinguish between recordings of Japanese and Dutch played backward.
* Literature: Glenda Browne, for her study of the word "the".[9]
* Medicine: Dan Meyer and Brian Witcombe, for investigating the side-effects of swallowing swords.
* Nutrition: Brian Wansink, for investigating people's appetite for mindless eating by secretly feeding them a self-refilling bowl of soup.[10]
* Peace: The Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for suggesting the research and development of a "gay bomb," which would cause enemy troops to become sexually attracted to each other.
* Physics: L. Mahadevan and Enrique Cerda Villablanca for their theoretical study of how sheets become wrinkled.

The awards ceremony is usually broadcast in whole or in part during the "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday" the day after Thanksgiving. ( Or you can watch the video webcast directly from Improbable Research website. (

The appendix lists all the winners. As does the Wikipedia page (

The book just serves to expand upon some of the more interesting or absurd awards over the years.

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