Ig Nobel prizes reward research on stinky feet, teenagers, hiccups
Research into stinky feet, a study on the sound of fingernails on a blackboard and a device that repels teenagers with an annoying high-pitched...
By Reuters and The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Research into stinky feet, a study on the sound of fingernails on a blackboard and a device that repels teenagers with an annoying high-pitched hum have won Ig Nobel prizes, the humorous counterpart to this week's Nobel prizes.
Other winning research announced Thursday included a Tennessee doctor's discovery that hiccups could be cured with a finger up the rectum and a study into why woodpeckers do not get headaches.
"The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology," said Marc Abrahams, editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which sponsors the awards with the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.
Biology: Bart Knols of Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands, the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, and colleague Ruurd de Jong for showing that the female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, which carries malaria, is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and the smell of human feet.
Ornithology: Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, and the late Philip R.A. May of the University of California, Los Angeles, for explaining why woodpeckers do not get headaches.
Nutrition: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.
Acoustics: D. Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand of Northwestern University in Chicago for a 1986 experiment aimed at discovering why the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard is so irritating.
Physics: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, for their insights into why dry spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces when bent.
Chemistry: Antonio Mulet, Jose Javier Benedito, Jose Bon and Carmen Rossello, for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature."
Mathematics: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of shots a photographer must take to almost ensure that nobody in a group photo will have his eyes closed.
Literature: Daniel Oppenheimer, for his report "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly."
What started as a small event in 1991 to honor obscure and humorous scientific achievements has grown into an international happening, with some of this year's winners traveling from Australia, Kuwait and France. The awards are given out by real Nobel laureates, including Harvard physics professor Roy Glauber, who stays behind afterward to sweep up.
All the research is real and has been published in scientific and medical journals. However, unlike the Nobel prizes awarded this week by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, Ig Nobel winners receive no money and little recognition, and have virtually no hope of transforming science or medicine.
Howard Stapleton, who was awarded the peace prize for his teenager repellant, said the invention grew out his 15-year-old daughter's trip to the local store last year to buy milk. She came back empty-handed, having been intimidated by a group of teenage boys loitering outside the store.
Stapleton, who has sold and installed security systems for more than two decades, thought back to when he was 12 years old and he visited his father at work. "I walked into this room with six people doing ultrasonic welding, and immediately ran right back out again, the noise was so painful," he said. "I asked an adult, 'What's that noise.' And he said, 'What noise?' "
Dr. Francis Fesmire said he wasn't sure whether he was honored or embarrassed when he learned he'd won an Ig Nobel for his paper called "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage."
"I'm a serious guy, and something I wrote in 1987 is coming back to haunt me," said Fesmire, an emergency physician and director of the emergency heart center at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. Fesmire, who stresses he is a real doctor who "someday wishes to be truly be remembered for my cardiac research," tried the technique for the first and last time nearly 20 years ago.
He knew that the technique could be used to slow a rapid heartbeat by stimulating the vagus nerve. The same nerve, when stimulated, can stop hiccups.
"I saw this patient who couldn't stop his hiccups, I tried these other maneuvers, and then I stuck my finger in his bottom," Fesmire said. "Will I ever do it again? No!"
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.