APS News

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes, honoring achievements that first make people LAUGH, and then make them THINK, were awarded at Harvard University’s historic Sanders Theatre in October before 1200 spectators. The event was produced by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students, and the Harvard Computer Society.

The event was broadcast live on the Internet, and can be seen in recorded form at www.improbable.com. An edited recording of the ceremony will be broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Science Friday” program on the day after Thanksgiving.

And the 2007 winners are….

MEDICINE PRIZE

Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects.”

PHYSICS PRIZE

L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

BIOLOGY PRIZE

Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE

Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin—vanilla fragrance and flavoring—from cow dung.

LINGUISTICS PRIZE

Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.

LITERATURE PRIZE


Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word “the”—and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.

PEACE PRIZE

The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon—the so-called “gay bomb”—that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.

NUTRITION PRIZE

Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.

ECONOMICS PRIZE

Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

AVIATION PRIZE

Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff