Tuesday, October 09, 2007

2007 Ig Nobel Awards

One of the best things about living in Boston is that I can do things like attend the Ig Nobel awards. You know you're jealous. Some of my favorite awards this year:
  • LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.
  • REFERENCE: "Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats," Juan M. Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, vol. 31, no. 1, January 2005, pp 95-100.
  • ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.
  • REFERENCE: U.S. patent #6,219,959, granted on April 24, 2001, for a "net trapping system for capturing a robber immediately."
  • MEDICINE: Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects."
  • REFERENCE: "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects," Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer, British Medical Journal, December 23, 2006, vol. 333, pp. 1285-7.
  • CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.
  • REFERENCE: "Novel Production Method for Plant Polyphenol from Livestock Excrement Using Subcritical Water Reaction," Mayu Yamamoto, International Medical Center of Japan.
  • PRESS NOTE: Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist."
And, for someone who is constantly annoyed by inconsistency, I give a hearty hat tip to Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, who channeled her annoyance into a published paper and an Ig Nobel!
LITERATURE: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.
REFERENCE: "The Definite Article: Acknowledging 'The' in Index Entries," Glenda Browne, The Indexer, vol. 22, no. 3 April 2001, pp. 119-22.
My husband's favorite attendee, of course, was Francis Fesmire, of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, for his novel treatment of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage. This guy is way too into his award (see photo at right for proof). After the ceremony, he even threw out free Dr Fran's Anti-Hiccup Kits, containing his picture, a latex surgical glove, a tube of jelly and directions. Tim was able to snag one and we are contemplating appropriate methods of display. My suggestion: put it in a glass box with a sign on the front that says "In case of intractable hiccups, break glass" and attach a tiny hammer.

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