Ig Nobel Prizes Salute Silly Science

The winners of this year's Ig Nobel Prizes include the inventor of underwear that doubles as an emergency gas mask, researchers who created diamonds from tequila, and more. The Igs honor research that "first, makes you laugh, then, makes you think," according to Marc Abrahams, the master of ceremonies and the editor of Annals of Improbable Research.

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IRA FLATOW, host:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow. If you're enjoying a quiet holiday afternoon at home, happy Thanksgiving to you. And if you're rushing from point A to point B, trying to pack in some more Black Friday shopping, maybe you should take a minute to slow down, relax and ponder the big questions in life, like does a cow that has a name give more milk than a cow that doesn't have a name, or in the event of a bar brawl, is it better to get hit in the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one? Or perhaps, is it possible to make diamonds out of tequila?

Those questions and many more were the topics of this year's Ig Nobel Awards ceremony, which took place in early October. This hour, it's our annual presentation of highlights from those awards, which honor scientific research that first makes you laugh and then makes you think. We won't be taking your calls, so please don't try to call or tweet in, but if you want more information about what we'll be talking about this hour, please go over to our Web site at www.sciencefriday.com, where you'll find links to our topic.

And now to Harvard Sanders Theater, where the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards ceremony is about to begin.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HOPKIN (Creator, Studmuffins of Science Calendar): Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HOPKIN: In just a moment, the new Ig Nobel Prize winners will arrive. All of our Nobel laureates, past Ig Nobel Prize winners, 24/7 lecturers and other Ig-notaries are here on stage, awaiting them.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HOPKIN: And now here they are. Please welcome the new Ig Nobel Prize winners.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HOPKIN: I'm Karen Hopkin, creator of the Studmuffins of Science calendar.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HOPKIN: I welcome you to this year's Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. We're gathered here tonight at Sanders Theater at Harvard University. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, literati, glitterati, pseudo-intellectuals and quasi-pseudo-intellectuals and deposed dictators, may I introduce our master of ceremonies, the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, chief airhead Marc Abrahams.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: The creators of the awards say they're intended to spur public curiosity and interest in science, or maybe they're just fun.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: We are gathered here tonight to honor some remarkable individuals and groups. Each of the winners has done something that first makes people laugh and then makes them think. The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony is produced by the science humor magazine The Annals of Improbable Research, and it's co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science - you can applaud, thank you. It's co-sponsored proudly by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students�

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: �and by the Harvard Computer Society. Tonight, 10 prizes will be given. The achievements speak for themselves, all too eloquently. The editors of the Annals of Improbable Research have chosen a theme for this year's ceremony. This year's theme is risk.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, let me introduce some of the several hundred people who are sitting here on the stage, including several Nobel laureates who have snuck up since the last time they were mentioned and have not had a chance to stand up and gain your attention: 1993 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, from New England Biolabs, Rich Roberts.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: 2001 Nobel laureate�

FLATOW: Twelve hundred splendidly eccentric spectators watched the winners step forward to accept their prizes. The prizes are physically handed to the winners by genuinely bemused, genuine Nobel laureates.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: �and Harvard, Dudley Herschbach.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: 2005 Nobel laureate in physics and a man who, for more than a decade, has humbly swept paper airplanes from the stage here at the Ig Nobel ceremony, Roy Glauber.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And there are many other important people up here. You will meet them later.

Mr. WILLIAM J. MALONEY (Attorney): Good evening, folks, I'm your V-chip monitor, prominent New York attorney William J. Maloney. My job, in a sense is to protect yourselves from yourselves. Now, given that the theme of tonight's ceremony is advertised to be risk�

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MALONEY: Well, I have a few concerns. I have obtained this list of activities that these people planned to do tonight, and I'm sorry to say that some of them are just too risky.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MALONEY: I'm sorry to be a spoilsport. We all enjoy having a good time, but come on, really. Here are the items that, thanks to my scrutiny, will not - repeat not - be done tonight. We had a laparoscopic surgery demonstration.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALONEY: Ew, no, no. A three-pound lump of potassium dropped into a bucket of water.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALONEY: I Googled that. That's dangerous. Tarring and feathering of the university endowment's fund manager.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALONEY: I got a legal opinion that waterboarding would have been all right, but tarring and feathering, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALONEY: They were planning on a sledgehammer toss from the balcony. Hey, you there, put that away and sit down, would you? We're not doing it. And then we have sword-swallowing demonstration, after which several strangers remove the sword from the sword-swallower's throat. Um, no. You know, that last one's not particularly risky.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MALONEY: Not to me, anyway. You may proceed.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Ig. And now Professor Jean Berko Gleason will deliver the traditional Ig Nobel Welcome, Welcome Speech.

Ms. JEAN BERKO GLEASON (Professor): Welcome, welcome.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: We are honored to have with us tonight several past Ig Nobel winners who have come back to take a bow and say some words.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 1996 Ig Nobel Art Prize was awarded to the creator of the plastic pink flamingo. Please welcome back Don Featherstone and his wife, Nancy Featherstone.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. DON FEATHERSTONE (Plastic Flamingo Inventor): The plastic pink flamingo has three natural enemies. One is plastic alligators�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEATHERSTONE: Plastic sharks and the neighborhood beautification committee.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. FEATHERSTONE: Very risky.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 2007 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize was awarded to the co-authors of the medical report "Sword-Swallowing and its Side Effects." Please welcome back one of the surviving members of that team, the president of the Sword-Swallowers International Association, Dan Meyer.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. DAN MEYER (President, Sword-Swallowers International Association): Thank you. It was a huge honor to receive the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine. What I do is risky.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MEYER: Tonight, you may not realize, but we just set a world record by having two Nobel laureates remove the sword from my throat earlier this evening. That was a huge risk.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MEYER: Now we're going to try and raise that risk another notch. We're going to try and top that record by having a number of total strangers, a number of Nobel laureates and acclaimed scientists remove the sword from my throat at the same time. Actually, it looks like we have so many - and we have not rehearsed this, which only increases the risk. So I believe we may even have to raise the risk a little bit more and have some of them remove the sword with a whip.

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now the keynote speech on the topic of risk will be given by Benoit Mandelbrot. Professor Mandelbrot invented the mathematical concept of fractals. He has also explored the wildness and risk in financial markets. Please welcome Benoit Mandelbrot.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. BENOIT MANDELBROT (Mathematician): Well, let me think, let me think. The occasion holds for a serious lecture, really timely and truly boring.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MANDELBROT: This morning, I gave a talk on financial prices, on fractals, where prices dancing and jumping along the time. Should I really repeat the same talk tonight? Well, I don't think so. But nobody will notice. You're all sleeping. Well, well, well. So my talk was one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two. Is that boring enough?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MANDELBROT: Nobody is stopping me. One, two, one, two, one, two�

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: We're going to take a short break, so stay with us, and when we come back, more from the Ig Nobel Awards. I'm Ira Flatow, and this is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow. They revered the pink plastic flamingo, gave an award to a translator for dog barks, presented the inventor of karaoke with a peace prize and believe a long-winded speech is best dealt with by a sweet little girl saying: Please stop, I'm bored.

This hour, yup, it's highlights from the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, presented each year by the editors of the science humor magazine, The Annals of Improbable Research. You can find out more about them at improbable.com. So let's go back to Harvard Sanders Theater, where something unusual is probably going to happen.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now it's time for the win-a-date-with-a-Nobel-laureate contest, and here's Karen Hopkin to tell us about our laureates.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HOPKIN: Thanks, snugglebug. Some laureates are cuties, and most are quite bright. Tonight's prize is so hot, he emits his own light. Marty Chalfie won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for showing that living things look better with a healthy, greenish glow. A folk guitarist, Chalfie enjoys playing with worms and singing Swedish drinking songs while hopping like a frog. Take this one home and your friends will be green with envy, if not fluorescent marker proteins. Let's give a warm Win a Date welcome to Marty Chalfie.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: All right. Let's see which lucky audience member will win a date with this Nobel laureate. When you entered the hall, the ushers handed you an attractive, printed program. Please pick it up and look through it. If your program contains a picture of Charles Darwin playing dice with the Archbishop of Canterbury, then you have won a date with this Nobel laureate. Come on up and claim your prize.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Okay, just exchange phone numbers, and whatever else, you can take care of later. Okay, thank you very much. Congratulations.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now let's get it over with. Ladies and gentlemen, the awarding of the 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes. This year's winners have truly earned their prizes. Karen, tell them what they've won.

Ms. HOPKIN: I'm right behind you, babe. Thank you. This year's winners will each take home an Ig Nobel Prize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: What else?

Ms. HOPKIN: Um, oh, a piece of paper that says they've won an Ig Nobel Prize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And anything about it?

Ms. HOPKIN: Signed by several Nobel laureates.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And is that all?

Ms. HOPKIN: What else could they want?

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Interesting question. Thank you, Karen. And now our winners. The veterinary medicine prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Prize in veterinary medicine is awarded to Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University in the U.K. for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Peter Rowlinson.

Mr. PETER ROWLINSON (Winner, Ig Nobel Prize): Thank you. I actually grew up on a dairy farm in Suffolk, about 15 miles from Cambridge. And I find myself geographically challenged being here, yet over 3,000 miles from home. At Newcastle, we have an interest in interactions between humans and domestic animals. We undertook a series of studies on young dairy cattle which showed benefits of positive treatment during rearing. From a survey came the finding that cows with names gave more milk. So what does this tell us? It's just part of good stockmanship, farmers that know and care for their cows. There are many that I would like to thank: some humans, but mainly cows.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ROWLINSON: So thank you. Thank you to Bluebell, my father's favorite cow, Clover, Buttercup, Daisy - have you noticed this preference for flower names? There are other names.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop, I'm bored.

Mr. ROWLINSON: I could go on with lots of cow names that are very, very popular.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop, I'm bored.

Mr. ROWLINSON: What can I do?

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop, I'm bored.

Mr. ROWLINSON: Fortunately for Miss Sweetie Poo, some milk and a cuddly cow.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The peace prize - the Ig Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to 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.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Stephan Bolliger.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. STEPHAN BOLLIGER (Winner, Ig Nobel Prize): Thank you ever so much, especially for the long handshake. In the film industry, everything looks so easy. For instance, in a bar brawl, somebody can take a bottle and just smash it as easy as nothing over somebody else's head. For instance�

(Soundbite of beer bottle being smashed)

Mr. BOLLIGER: John Wayne wouldn't even faint. But what's it like in real life? We've been asked this question on several occasions by members of the corps. So we decided to find out whether we can actually break full beer bottles on a human skull, and if not, whether these bottles will actually break the human skull.

We've performed a very simple experiment. We tested the fracture threshold of full and empty bottles in a drop tower. The full beer bottles broke at 30 joules, the empty ones at 40 joules. Doesn't sound like much, especially if you're talking about bar brawls and John Wayne, but if you look at the literature, then a human skull will break somewhere between 14 and 68 joules. So you can actually crack a skull with a beer bottle. And, that's the best thing, the empty beer bottle is even more capable of inflicting serious harm. And you have all the enjoyment of the beer before.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOLLIGER: Luckily, this was only a prop because, as you - if you'd paid attention - might have gathered, if this had been a real�

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop, I'm bored.

Mr. BOLLIGER: Thank you. You'd have had to pull me out on a stretcher.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop, I'm bored.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The economics prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Economics Prize is awarded this year to 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 rapidly transform themselves into huge banks, and vice versa, and that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winners could not, or would not, be with us tonight. The chemistry prize. The Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize is awarded to Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga, and Victor M. Castano of the National Autonomous University of Mexico for creating diamonds from liquid, specifically from tequila.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here are Javier Morales and Miguel Apatiga.

Unidentified Man #2: Thank you. Thank you so much. Cheers.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Man #2: Well, with this, we'd like to thank Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, as well as the Universidad Autonoma Nuevo, Leon, for their support. And regarding the research, there is a lot of information and comment on this topic. And, however, the best comment I ever read about two weeks ago is as follows. It's researchers have a sense of humor, even in the most serious research. And here I have a tequila similar that I have used in this research. And we'd like to share with all of you. So cheers. Cheers. Cheers.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Man #3: Hello. First of all, I want to thank God and every one of you for coming here today. I want to start the speech by asking you two questions. The first question is, do you think there is a special system to grow diamond from tequila?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: I'll tell you, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: The second one. The second question is, do you think there is a need for a tiny, little microscope to see nano and microdiamonds?

Unidentified Group: Yes.

Unidentified Man #3: Of course not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Of course not. And the reason is that when you drink a lot of tequila, you will start doing and seeing anything you want.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: This is a (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, it's my honor to introduce our presiding monarchs. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the king and queen: their majesties, the king and the queen of Swedish meatballs.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: All right. Now, get set for something special: the 24/7 lectures. We've invited several of the world's top thinkers to tell us very briefly what they're thinking about. Each 24/7 lecturer will explain his or her subject twice: First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. And then after a brief pause, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. The 24-second time limit will be enforced by our referee, Mr. John Barrett. Mr. Barrett?

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Mr. Barrett, do you have any advice you can offer to our lecturers?

Mr. JOHN BARRETT: Yes, Marc. Gentlemen, keep it clean. Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: All right. Now, let's have the first group of 24/7 lecturers. Will the actuaries bar the doors?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The first 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Wade Adams, director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science & Technology at Rice University. His topic: nanotechnology. First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Dr. WADE ADAMS (Director, Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science & Technology, Rice University): $2.7 trillion industry by 2015 solutions to the top 10 problems facing humanity in the next 50 years: gold nanoshells, cancer therapy, buckyballs, MRI contrast enhancers, graphene ribbons, oil recovery, carbon nanotubes, ballistic conducting grid wire, nanoelectronics, smaller, faster, cheaper, nanophotonics sensors, nanomembranes, water filtration, ultra-lightweight, strong nanocomposites, the energy-efficient SUVs. Rick Smalley's challenge�

(Soundbite of whistle)

Dr. ADAMS: �be a scientist, save the world.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Dr. ADAMS: Nanotechnology: Making small stuff do big things.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The next 24/7 lecturer will be delivered by Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and 2008 Nobel laureate in economics. His topic, I believe, is economics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Is that�

Professor PAUL KRUGMAN (Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University): That's it.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: His topic, economics. First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Prof. KRUGMAN: Decentralized constrained optimization by maximizing agents with well-defined convex objective functions and/or convex production functions, engaging in exchange and production with free disposal, leads, in the absence of externalities, market power, and other distortions, to convergence on equilibrium characterized by Pareto optimality.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Prof. KRUGMAN: Greedy people, competing, make the world go round.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The next 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Stephen Wolfram, creator of "Wolfram-Alpha" and of "Mathematica," and author of the book, "A New Kind of Science."

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: His topic: Genius.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Mr. STEPHEN WOLFRAM (Author, "A New Kind of Science"): Everyday, lots gets discovered and invented. It's actually pretty predictable. There's a flow to it. Genius is something alien. It's hard to measure or classify - that's the point. One day, most of it will come from machines, but for now it's just us, single people with, at most, one big idea of the lifetime.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Mr. WOLFRAM: A surprise to the sequence of civilization.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: We're going to take a break here and when we come back, more Ig silliness. So stay with us.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow. This hour, science from a different perspective - the perspective of a theater filled with spectators that believe in funny hats, paper airplanes and noisy party horns. We now return you to Harvard Sanders Theatre, home of the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards Ceremony, which is now in its 19th first annual year.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The medicine prize: the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded this year to Donald Unger of Thousand Oaks, California, 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 60 years. Here is Dr. Unger.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. DONALD UNGER (Winner, Ig Nobel Prize): I want to thank the Ig Nobel crew for giving me my 15 minutes of fame. On the other hand�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. UNGER: �after 60 years of knuckle-cracking, perhaps I deserve an award. Now, the only thing left for me to decide is what I want on my tombstone. Here, as you may know, most tombstones are absolutely a bore: Here, lies Joe Blow. He was a beloved father, son, whatever. Now, if you want a good tombstone, think about Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, who, on his tombstone it says, da, da, da, da, that's all folks. On my tombstone, I want it to say, here lies Don Unger who finally has quit cracking his knuckles. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: The Igs are a tribute to the good, the bad and the ugly in science - or at least, the strange, silly and unusual. Where else would levitating frogs, pink plastic flamingos and the beauty preferences of chickens find highest honors? Previous awardees have included the inventor of the ever-popular comb-over hairstyle, who managed to get a patent on it to boot, and researchers who studied the connection between suicide and country music. Hmm. The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded for achievements that, first, make people laugh and then make them think. The awards are given out by the science humor magazine The Annals of Improbable Research. And you can find out more at improbable.com.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The physics prize.

(Soundbite of cheers)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Physics Prize is awarded this year to Katherine Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University, and Liza Shapiro of the University of Texas, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here are Katherine Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman.

Professor KATHERINE WHITCOME (Anthropology, University of Cincinnati): Well, good evening and thank you for this wonderful award. Any pregnant women in the house tonight? Along with our co-author, Liza, we want to dedicate this award to pregnant bipeds, females, who for seven million years have been carrying fetal load, and that's nine kilograms of baby, breast, placenta, fat and fluids without tipping over.

(Soundbite of applause)

Prof. WHITCOME: Our secret for balance is we lean back. And to avoid the risk of sheer force, we have evolved three wedged lumbar vertebrae.

Professor DANIEL LIEBERMAN (Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University): And we also want to dedicate this award to all those male hominids who have pregnant over the last seven million years. Now granted there haven't been many and most of them have been on "Oprah." and probably in the past they were on paleo-Oprah. But their problem, as I can tell you right now, is that we only have two lumbar vertebra that are wedged, so we can't spread those sheering forces over as many vertebra, and I can tell you it causes back pain and all kinds of problems. I feel awful. I can't - you have to pee all the time. And I, you know, I'm at risk of losing my job because we don't have informed consent�

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop. I'm bored. Please stop. I'm bored.

Prof. LIEBERMAN: All right, thank you so much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The literature prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Prize for Literature this year is awarded to Ireland's police service, An Garda Siochana, for writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country, Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means driving license.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winner could not, or would not, be with us today, but we have a special tribute. Speaking on behalf of all her fellow Polish licensed drivers, here is Karolina Lewestam.

Ms. KAROLINA LEWESTAM: Hi. As a Polish person, I would like to thank the Irish people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LEWESTAM: A few years ago, the Polish people virtually invaded Ireland, so we've stolen all of their jobs, possibly some of their cars, too. We've drank a sea of their Guinness. But they just keep loving us. And they love us so much, that they want us to have fun. They want us to have fun driving. They want us to drive like maniacs. They're like, you know, go out there, do whatever you want. And the Irish police even invented this character, Mr. Prawo Jazdy, so he will take all the blame for any traffic violation any Polish person will ever commit. So I would just - I just wanted to say thank you, guys. Thank you very much. We are very deeply moved by this. And we'll try to come over more often. Thank you.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

FLATOW: Speaker head Marc Abrahams says of the prize that some people covet it, others flee from it. Some see it as a hallmark of civilization, others as a scuff mark. Some laugh with it, others laugh at it. Many praise it, a few condemn it, others are just mystified.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Public Health Prize. The Ig Nobel Prize for Public Health is awarded this year to Elena Bodnar, Raphael Lee and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, 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.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Elena Bodnar.

Dr. ELENA BODNAR (Winner, Ig Nobel Prize): Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to mention that it takes only 25 seconds for average woman to use this protective personal device: five seconds to remove, convert, and apply your own mask, and 20 seconds to wonder who the lucky man is she's going to save.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Ms. BODNAR: Well, the times of naivety and unpreparedness have passed. We have learned to accept risk.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Ms. BODNAR: And we have learned to appreciate preparedness and prevention. That's why I always wear convertible bra mask. And when I'm here next year, I hope every woman in this auditorium will also be wearing one. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, I believe we have a demonstration by the inventor.

Ms. BODNAR: I would like to ask for three volunteers, preferably Nobel laureates, to assist in the demonstration.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Past winners have tackled tough questions, like does the five-second rule apply when you drop food on the floor? And why do shower curtains billow inwards? Ten genuine Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded each year. Winners travel to the Ig ceremony at their own expense, if they dare.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The mathematics prize. The Ig Nobel Prize in Mathematics is awarded this year to 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 to $100 trillion.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winner could not, or would not, be with us tonight. And the final prize of the evening: the Ig Nobel Biology Prize.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The biology prize this year is awarded to Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90 percent in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Fumiaki Taguchi.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. FUMIAKI TAGUCHI (Winner, Ig Nobel Prize): Do you ever ponder, ponder (unintelligible) together, here tonight, risky.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. TAGUCHI: First of all, I - let me tell you that I owe my being here today to two important body of my career. They are giant panda and their feces.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAGUCHI: The panda is a humorous and adorable looking animal. But Panda feces don't look like the usual animal feces.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAGUCHI: Steam of leaves of main diet, bamboo, excreted almost undigested, so with no stinking smell, which is good for the experiment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAGUCHI: Without panda and their feces, I would never have thought of finding bacteria over...

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop. I'm bored. Please stop. I'm bored.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAGUCHI: Okay. Thank you.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAGUCHI: Okay. Thank you very much.

MISS SWEETIE POO: Please stop.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow and this is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, our V-Chip monitor.

Mr. MALONEY: Thank you, Marc. I am your V-Chip monitor. Please listen carefully to this safety and recycling announcement. It is almost - and I emphasize the almost - time to throw the paper airplanes. Remember what's important. Safety, accuracy, recycling�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALONEY: �and safety, not risk. All of you try to hit the human air drum - at least try to hit it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: It's time for the triumphal handshaking with Professor Lipscomb. All of the new Ig Nobel Prize winners will now emerge one by one through the sacred curtain. They are to receive a token handshake from Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb.

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Mr. ABRAHAMS: Are we all set? Let the emerging and the shaking begin.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Would the Ig Nobel Prize winners and the Nobel laureates and the keynote speaker and the 24/7 speakers, would you please all come assemble at the front of the stage for a pointless photo opportunity.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And let's get Professor Lipscomb in here. And now, if you'd all please whack your hands together and shower these people with self-esteem.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, Professor Jean Berko Gleason will give the traditional Ig Nobel goodbye, goodbye speech.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Professor JEAN BERKO GLEASON: Goodbye. Goodbye.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: If you'd like to stay for a couple of minutes and help us clean this up, there are several thousand paper airplanes here, we'd greatly appreciate it. Now, on behalf of the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard Computer Society, especially from all of us at the Annals of Improbable Research, please remember this final thought: If you didn't win an Ig Nobel Prize tonight, and especially if you did, better luck next year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Good night.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

FLATOW: That's all the time we have for this year. Our thanks to Marc Abrahams at the Annals of Improbable Research. More about them at improbable.com. Also thanks to this year's prize ceremony participants and all who helped with the show.

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