Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dung Preference

The Ig Nobel Prize is an award given for "science achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think." The sixteenth annual Ig Nobel Prize event at Harvard University was organized by ANNALS OF IMPROBABLE RESEARCH, a science humor magazine, in cooperation with several Harvard student groups.

The 2006 ceremonies opened on October 5, 2006, with a mini-opera titled "Inertia Makes the World Go Around," starring opera singers Margot Button and Gina Beck, about two sisters, one of whom is at rest and tends to stay at rest, and the other who is in constant motion and tends to remain in motion.

Another pre-award feature was the "24/7 Lectures," an annual delight, where several of the world's top thinkers each explains their subjects twice; first in 24 seconds and again in 7 words.

The prize winners, along with their published research papers and my astute observations, include:

OMITHOLOGY: Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales – Electromechanical Teenager Repellant (Tydfil invented an electronic device that makes an annoying noise audible to teenagers but not to adults)

This invention is long overdue. Teenagers can be very annoying, especially in groups, and need to be dispersed. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, but most only gargle.

NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University – Dung Preference of the Dung Beetle Scarabaeus Cristatus Fab from Kuwait (an explanation of why dung beetles are finicky eaters)

If dung is the main entree of most of your meals, being finicky makes a lot of sense. Plus, I don't imagine there's much to nibble on in rural Kuwait other than sand or dead Dung Beetles.

ORNITHOLOGY: Ivan R. Schwab of the University of California Davis – Cure for a Headache (a study on why woodpeckers don't get headaches)

Plus, banging your face against a tree helps clear up acne.

ACOUSTICS: D. Lynn Halpern of Brandeis University and Northwestern University – Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound (Halpern conducted experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard)

In my experience, fingernails on a blackboard sends a shiver down your spine which also clears up acne.

MATHEMATICS: Nic Svenson of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization – Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed (a mathematical calculation of the number of photographs it takes to ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes shut)

This mathematician is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot. If you stand close to him, you can probably hear the ocean.

LITERATURE: Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University – Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly (unnecessary long words)


MEDICINE: Francis M Fesmire of the University of the Tennessee College of Medicine – Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage (a compilation of medical case reports on an unusual method of stopping hiccups)

By the way, the digit is a finger and the use of a latex glove is highly recommended. Not to be used for recreational purposes which may become addictive.

PHYSICS: Basile Audoly of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris – Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in half (an explanation of why spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces)

The French invented the croissant, the guillotine and the surrender flag. If they were any more lame they'd have to be watered twice a week.

CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet of the University of Valencia in Spain – Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature (findings concerning the melting of cheese)

Conclusion -- when very hot, cheese melts. If you see two people talking and one looks bored, the other one is Mulet.

BIOLOGY: Bart Knols of the Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands – On Human Odour, Malaria Mosquitoes, and Limburger Cheese (a study showing that a female malaria mosquito is equally attracted to the scent of human feet and the scent of Limburger Cheese)

I suspect this would also include the scent of Barney Frank and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Most of the winners attended the ceremony where they each gave a brief speech. To ensure brevity, a little girl would dutifully scream, "Please stop talking – you're boring me." when recipients ran over their allotted time.

People often yell "Please stop talking – you're boring me." at me too; sometimes when I'm not even talking.

Quote for the Day – "If you can't be a muse, be amusing." Woody Paige

Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a box of latex gloves. His blogs appear on several websites, including www.myspace.com/bret1111

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