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Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

2009 Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes honoring “research that makes people laugh then think” were awarded to the pinnacle of unusual, outlandish and downright wacky research over the last year. Before a sold-out crowd at the Sanders Theater in Harvard University, Nobel Laureates Wolfgang Ketterle, Paul Krugman, and Orhan Pamuk presented the Ig Nobel winners their awards.

The ceremony was organized by the humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, and the Harvard Computer Society. A complete report of the ceremony, including photos, videos, and links to the winners’ research is available on the Annals of Improbable Research’s website.

The 2009 Winners Are . . .


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.”


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 protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.


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.

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Editor: Alan Chodos