It is always a pleasure to report British triumphs at international award ceremonies. It is thus with great pride that I can report a home victory in the second most prestigious scientific awards in the world. I am referring of course to the IgNobels or Igs which celebrate research that "cannot, or should not, be repeated". They are given to scientists whose results first make people laugh, and then make them think.
Guardian Big Awards and humungous celebrities correspondent reported from yesterday’s ceremony which was hosted by the journal Annals of Improbable Research and took place at Harvard University. The coveted prizes were handed out by real Nobel laureates. Recipients were allowed no more than 60 seconds to deliver their acceptance speech, a time limit enforced by an eight-year-old girl.
Veterinary medicine prize
There was a British triumph in this category which was won Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University's school of agriculture. They shared the award for the groundbreaking discovery that giving cows names such as Daisy increases their milk yield.
"It's the highlight of my career," said Douglas. "The work amused the public, but it addressed a serious issue about the welfare of animals and points to an easy way to improve yields by reducing stress in cattle."
Awarded for research on whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full beer bottle or an empty one, the prize went to Stephan Bolliger and colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland. "Empty beer bottles are sturdier than full ones," the researchers reported. "However, both full and empty bottles are theoretically capable of fracturing the human neurocranium."
Public health prize
Awarded to Elena Bodnar of Hinsdale, Illinois, for patenting a bra that, in an emergency, can be converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the owner and one for a needy bystander. "It was inspired by the Chernobyl nuclear accident," said Bodnar, who is originally from Ukraine. "This way, the mask is always readily available."
To Donald Unger, a doctor in Thousand Oaks, California, who cracked the knuckles of his left hand, but never those on his right, every day for 60 years to investigate whether it caused arthritis. Unger, now 83, told the Guardian: "After 60 years, I looked at my knuckles and there's not the slightest sign of arthritis. I looked up to the heavens and said: 'Mother, you were wrong, you were wrong, you were wrong.' "
Javier Morales shares the award with two colleagues at the National University of Mexico for turning the national drink tequila into diamonds. Thin films of diamond were produced by heating 80%-proof tequila blanco in a pressure vessel.
Awarded to Katherine Whitcome at the University of Cincinnati and colleagues for a detailed explanation of why pregnant women do not topple over. "Pregnancy presents an enormous challenge for the female body," Whitcome explained. "It turns out that enhanced curvature and reinforcement of the lower spine are key to maintaining normal activities during pregnancy."
Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University graduate school of medical sciences in Japan share the prize for demonstrating that kitchen waste can be reduced by more than 90% by using bacteria extracted from giant panda excrement. Taguchi suspected panda faeces must contain bacteria capable of breaking down even the hardiest of foods because of the bear's vast consumption of bamboo.
Awarded to Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple way of dealing with a wide range of numbers. Gono ordered his bank to print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.
Awarded to the entire police force of Ireland for issuing more than 50 penalties to a man they supposed to be the most persistent driving offender in the country: a Mr Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means "driver's licence". An investigation held earlier this year revealed officers had mistakenly taken down the wrong details from motorists' documents.
Awarded 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 be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa – and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy".
Ach who needs the real Nobel prizes!