Each year in an attempt to do something warm and fuzzy before the cold, harsh Norwegian winter sets in, the Nobel Committee awards millions of dollars in awards to scientists, mathematicians, scholars, politicians and the like for doing special things for the benefit of mankind – like physics, peace, etc. Across the pond, back in the States at Harvard, the Ig-Nobel stands at the ready with their own version of the famous prize. While not as fancy, generous or beneficial they are funny. Here are just a few of the top Ig-Nobel prizes for 2010.
Medicine prize – Psychologists Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest at the University of Amsterdam share the award for discovering that breathing difficulties brought on by asthma can be alleviated by repeated rollercoaster rides.
Physics prize – Awarded to Lianne Parkin and her team at the University of Otago in New Zealand for demonstrating that people are less likely to slip over on icy footpaths if they wear their socks outside their shoes instead of inside.
Peace prize – Awarded to psychologist Richard Stephens and others at Keele University for confirming that swearing relieves pain. Stephens, who began the study after striking his thumb with a hammer, found volunteers could tolerate more pain if they repeated swearwords rather than neutral words.
Engineering prize – The task of monitoring dangerous bugs in whales at sea is a formidable one. Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and others at the Institute of Zoology in London developed a way to collect fluids ejected from whales’ blowholes by attaching petri dishes to the underside of small, remote-controlled helicopters and hovering them overhead.
Management prize – To Alessandro Pluchino and team at the University of Catania for demonstrating mathematically that companies work more efficiently if staff are promoted at random.
Public health prize – Awarded to Manuel Barbeito at the Industrial Health and Safety Office in Maryland for scientific studies that found microbes cling to beards, making more hirsute men a potential laboratory hazard.
Chemistry prize – For research that overturned the long-held belief that oil and water do not mix, the prize was awarded to Eric Adams at MIT and others, including researchers at BP.