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The Ig Nobel Prize winners

Posted by Robin Abrahams  October 2, 2009 11:44 AM

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And here you go, folks--

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

PEACE PRIZE: 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.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.

: 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.

LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland's police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means "Driving License".

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.

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, 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 bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.

For more information, including full citations on the winners--because all of these achievements are real--go to

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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9 comments so far...
  1. the author would hold my interest a little longer if the results of the studies were included. also, improvements in the grammar department would be appropriate.

    Posted by sarah b October 2, 09 12:22 PM
  1. These are great! I'm glad to know that those adorable, but useless, giant pandas can be put to work on kitchen refuse.

    Also, the physics prize about pregnant women tipping over is a great service to society!

    Posted by derfx October 2, 09 12:37 PM
  1. The winners will be presenting their findings tomorrow at the Ig Informal Lectures at MIT at 1pm in room 10-250.

    You can ask them questions about their research, and correct our grammar, at that time. I'm sure it will add immeasurably to the entertainment value of the event.

    Posted by Miss Conduct October 2, 09 12:39 PM
  1. I think I smell poisonous gas! Give me half your bra! No, wait, that's just the panda poo. Can I keep the cup, though?

    Posted by Livingjetlag October 2, 09 01:28 PM
  1. wow, Sarah b. Please don't show up at the Ig's tonight. No one likes a sourpuss. (Miss Conduct, thanks for sharing these hysterical prizes. I'm a normal reader of the Annals of Improbable Research and you've described the prizes perfectly.)

    Robin says: Don't you show up at the Igs tonight, either, Lola! They were last night. But the lectures will be AWESOME. Hope to see you there.

    Posted by Lola October 2, 09 01:50 PM
  1. @ Miss Conduct: huge kudos to you for posting a followup message. I truly wish your colleagues would do the same from time to time.

    And, I think these are hysterical. Thanks again!

    Posted by odatruf October 2, 09 02:11 PM
  1. Odatruf, I don't do it often, and the reason is because the particular blog software that uses doesn't facilitate that sort of thing very well--which is probably why other Globe bloggers don't do it, either. On my personal blog (, I write back and forth in comments with readers all the time. I try to keep this blog interactive by writing summaries of readers' responses to the biweekly questions I run.

    But that's da truf--if the software were easier, I think the blogs would get more interactive. Etiquette, ethics, and engineering!

    Posted by Miss Conduct October 2, 09 02:48 PM
  1. Normally I'm not a fan of diamonds, but I would fork over a lot of theoretical money for one made from tequila. I suppose carbons are carbons, but that's just awesome.

    Posted by JoGeek October 2, 09 03:53 PM
  1. Gosh darn, I missed the modeling of the gas mask brassiere! ;-)

    Posted by Lola October 2, 09 05:00 PM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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