The Ig Nobel prizes for 2009 have been awarded! My favorites this year are:
Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
Sounds somewhat silly at first, but when you really stop to think about it it’s not as easy a question to answer as you might initially think. Not having actually read the paper itself, here are my first thoughts. An empty bottle is probably more likely to break and cause lacerations, which may be numerous, but probably not terribly deep. A full bottle is more likely to cause blunt trauma if it doesn’t break, which may or may not be better than lots of small cuts. But then perhaps if it does break the alcohol will act as an antiseptic? Maybe I’ll actually read the paper and see what their conclusions are.
Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
My smart ass answer: because God some intelligent dude didn’t want them to. Seriously, though, this highlights one aspect of a common problem in the design of the human body. Of course we evolved from quadrupedal ancestors, and natural selection has not yet fully compensated for the transition to bipedalism. As such we suffer from many ailments that could be ameliorated by a slightly more efficient bipedal design. This study in particular seems to be looking at some of the changes wrought by NS that have helped us cope up to now.
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE
Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
Hmm…breathe in a poisonous, potentially deadly gas, or breathe through an apparatus that has been steeped in booby sweat. Maybe some guys like that idea, but for me it would be a tough choice. But then, it would kind of necessitate the removal of said brassiere, so maybe it’d be worth it either way. (forgive my misogyny, but mmmmmm…boobies)
Of course, these are only my 3 favorites, and there are many others that are definitely worth looking at. By all means visit their site found here (or here at Wikipedia for a slightly easier read) and check out the winners for this year as well as the past winners. There have been some truly great winners in times past, and I don’t doubt that will continue well into the future.