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Celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative: 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners announced

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October 3, 2011

Japanese scientists received Ig Nobel for chemistry by determining the airborne density of...

Japanese scientists received Ig Nobel for chemistry by determining the airborne density of wasabi, resulting in the development of a smell-based fire alarm

A Wasabi Smoke Alarm, the impact of urinary urgency on decision-making and the discovery that a certain kind of beetle copulates with beer bottles were among the achievements honored in this year's Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University.

With past recipients including the inventor of a bra that doubles as an emergency facemask, the Ig Nobel Prizes are usually handed out around a week before the real Nobel Prizes by a US-based science parody magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Now in it's 21st year, the Ig Nobel Prize aims to honor achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." The awards are divided into 10 different disciplines.

This year's Ig Nobel Prize in biology went to a group of researchers who discovered an odd habit of an Australian male jewel beetle. It copulates with short empty beer bottle called a "stubby" which it mistakes for a female jewel beetle.

In the chemistry field, AIR awarded Japanese scientists of Shiga University for determining the optimal density of airborne wasabi which led to the creation of an olfactory, Wasabi-based fire alarm. Covered by Gizmag back in 2008 and commercially launched one year later, the Wasabi alarm is designed to wake up hearing impaired people in case of a fire or other emergency.

Research conducted by a team led by Mirjam A. Tuk from the University of Twente dealing with how the urge to urinate influences decision-making picked-up the 2011 Ig Nobel in medicine. In one experiment, a group of volunteers were asked to make money-related choices 40 minutes after having drunk 750 ml of water. "You seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder," researchers concluded.

In the public safety arena, John Senders of the University of Toronto and his colleagues recieved a gong for a study on how distractions affect driving vigilance. This research included an experiment in which a driver was repeatedly blinded by a special helmet's visor, while driving in real traffic.

Some of readers might have heard of Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, who ran over illegally parked luxury cars with an armored tank. For his efforts Zuokas received the Ig Nobel Peace Prize.

This year's award in physiology went to scientists based in the UK and the Netherlands for their study entitled No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise, while the psychology award went to Norwegian scientist for attempting to understand why people sigh in everyday life.

Other scientific endeavors to receive 2011 Ig Nobels included:
  • a "Theory of Structured Procrastination" which assumes that procrastinators can be motivated to do important things as long as they are doing them as a way of avoiding something even more important (Literature)
  • determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't (Physics)
  • mistakenly predicting the end of the world - an award that went to numerous scientists "for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations" (Mathematics)
  • Check out the full list of winners at the Improbable Research site or watch the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony below:

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    2 Comments

    The NOBEL prizes have ceased to have any meaning since the absurd awards of the prize to the likes of Al Gore and Barak Obama..Nobel prizes should now be hidden in boxes of Cracker Jacks..

    bgstrong
    4th October, 2011 @ 09:22 am PDT

    I agree with bgstrong the Nobel prize has become a joke.

    Slowburn
    5th October, 2011 @ 08:26 am PDT
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