Science stumbles on with Ig Nobel awards

Satirical awards for research on bed bugs, sword swallowing and the 'Gay bomb'

Research into the mystery of wrinkles on bed sheets, the bottomless bowl of soup and the effect of Viagra on hamster jet lag dominated the awards Thursday night at the annual Ig Nobel awards at Harvard University.

Slideshows: The 2007 Ig Nobel prize winners | Past notable Ig Nobels

The zany, tongue-in-cheek award program by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at Harvard gives Ig Nobels as a parody of the Nobel prizes for serious scientific research.

Here, according to various news reports, are the 2007 winners:

MEDICINE: Dr. Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer for their report "Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects."

PHYSICS: L. Mahadevan and Enrique Cerda Villablanca for studying wrinkle patterns in sheets.

BIOLOGY: Dr. Johanna E.M.H. von Bronswijk for her census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, bacteria, algae and ferns found in our beds.

CHEMISTRY: Mayi Yamamoto for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.

LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles for demonstrating that rats can't tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backward and a person speaking Dutch backward.

LITERATURE: Glenda Browne for her study of the definite article "the" and the ways it causes problems when alphabetizing.

PEACE: The U.S. Air Force's Wright Laboratory for their proposed "gay bomb," a chemical weapon to make enemy soldiers sexually attracted to each other.

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink, whose experiment with a bottomless bowl of soup showed that humans eat more when presented with more food.

ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh for patenting a device that drops a net over bank robbers.

AVIATION: Patricia Agostino, Santiago Plano and Diego Golombek for discovering that hamsters recover from jet lag faster when given Viagra.

The Ig Nobels were first awarded in 1991 when education awards went to then Vice President Dan Quayle, who was lampooned at the time for not being the smartest guy a heartbeat away from the presidency.

The stage at Harvard’s Sanders Theater, as in past ceremonies, was littered with paper airplanes and funny costumes, but real Nobel Prize winners help hand out the makeshift trophies.

The master of ceremonies concluded the 90-minute event with best wishes: “If you didn’t win, an Ig Nobel, and especially if you did, better luck next year.”

Learn more about this topic

Slideshow: The 2007 Ig Nobel prize winners

Slideshow: A look back at past notable Ig Nobel winners

Ig Nobel: Honoring weird science at Harvard

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.