2009 Ig Nobel Awards: Talking to Cows, Beer Bottle Smashing, Tequila Diamonds, and Panda Poo

2009ignobleSponsored by humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Nobel Awards are dedicated to "research that makes you laugh, then think." The world of academia is often very insular and self-congratulatory, but in the case of the Ig Nobel Awards, we're mostly OK with it. How else would we become aware of the fact that if you name your cows they make more milk, whether it's more damaging to be hit upside the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one, or that panda poop will make your compost heap the envy of the neighborhood? Or learn of the brassiere that can be turned into a gas mask?

Awarded in the same categories as the Nobel Prize, as well as categories like "Interdisciplinary Research," "Public Health," and "Engineering." The prizes are intended to reward actual achievements, however in 1999, the Ig Nobel for science education was awarded to the boards of education in both Colorado and Kansas for dropping evolution from the curriculum.

The year's greatest achievements in food research, below.

VETERINARY MEDICINE: For discovering that cows with names give more milk than cows without, Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University. Their paper was titled "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production." The conclusion: "On farms where cows were called by name, milk yield was 258 liters higher than on farms where this was not the case."

PEACE PRIZE: For their experiment on whether it is more damaging to be hit upside the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one, Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland. Their paper was titled "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" It turns out that both full and empty bottles are sufficient to break human skulls.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: For making diamonds out of tequila, Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Their paper was titled "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila."

BIOLOGY PRIZE: For discovering that food waste will reduce by 90% when introduced to bacteria from giant panda feces, Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan. Their paper was titled "Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces."

—Paula Forbes

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