NATURAL SCIENCE

Genius or Goofball? The 2009 Ig Nobel Award Winners

The 2009 Ig Nobel Awards honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology. Here, our take on the fun contest's winners. 

Veterinary Medicine

Got milk? Want Bessie to give still more milk? Let's hope the work of Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson pans out. The pair from Newcastle University showed that cows with names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

AP/CHOCO MILK

Public Health

When is a bra not a bra? Clearly, when it's been converted into a gas mask. At least, that's what Chicagoan's Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan would have you think. 

AP

Peace

Before your next bar brawl, think back to the pioneering work of five researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland. Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali, and Beat Kneubuehl set out to analyze the fracture threshold of the human skull, and whether empty or full beer bottles are more likely to do the most damage.

AP

Physics

What's keeping pregnant actress Ashley Jensen upright? Or translated into physics-speak, how has fetal load played a part in the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins? That's the weighty mystery Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro, and Daniel E. Lieberman set out to unravel. 

Reuters

Mathematics

Challenging economic times cause for ingenious solutions. Enter Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, who was feted for "giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers—from very small to very big—by having his bank print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars."

Andrew Ericson

Biology

Eat Up! By the time lunch goes all the way through this giant panda, it will have been turned into bacteria-rich feces. And Japan's Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei demonstrated that kitchen refuse can be reduced by more than 90 percent using that feces. Yay!

AP

Chemistry

Traditionally, miners painstakingly dig up diamonds like the gigantic, 507-carat monster found earlier this week. Some scientists think that's too much work. Javier Morlaes, Miguel Apatiga, and Victor M. Castano of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico instead devised a process for creating diamonds from liquids—in particular, tequila. 

AP

Economics

Pulling a rabbit from a hat is a parlor trick compared with that deftly executed by the directors, executives, and auditors of four of Iceland's biggest banks. The group made economic history by demonstrating how rapidly tiny banks can become big banks...and vice versa.

Literature

A book's worth of traffic tickets would scare off even a grown man. A rare group award goes to Ireland's police service, which collectively issued more than fifty traffic tickets to the country's most frequent driving offender. 

AP

Medicine

Careful with those knuckles, boys! After all, cracking your knuckles can lead to arthritis....or does it? That's what Donald L. Unger of Thousand Oaks, California, set out to definitely discover. He cracked the knuckles of his left hand (but never his right hand) every day for more than 60 years. 

AP

Genius or Goofball? The 2009 Ig Nobel Award Winners

The 2009 Ig Nobel Awards honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology. Here, our take on the fun contest's winners. 

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