Another year of Nobel prizes invariably brings forth the Ig Nobels that try to overshadow the historic awards. Human health seems to be a big topic this year in a contest that highlights true but “improbable research”. We would like to congratulate all the winners and hope more research into the ignored, irrelevant, or obvious continues with much haste and motivation.
MEDICINE PRIZE: 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.
REFERENCE: “Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?“, Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid – specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila,” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485.
PHYSICS PRIZE: 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.
REFERENCE: “Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins,” Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: 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.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.”
BIOLOGY PRIZE: 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.
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces,” Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda” [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.
VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: 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.
REFERENCE: “Exploring Stock Managers’ Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production,” Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69. DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473.