The Guardian, By Ian Sample, September 18
The nation can hold its head up high. Once again, researchers in Britain have been honoured with that most coveted of scientific awards, the Ig Nobel prize.
Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – prizes doled out from Stockholm next month, the Ig Nobels are awarded for science that makes people laugh and then makes them think.
The winners this year received their awards at a ceremony at Harvard University, where a stern eight-year-old girl was on hand to enforce the strict 60 second limit on acceptance speeches. The ceremony is organised by the science humour magazine, Annals of Improbable Research.
Speaking at the event was Rob Rhinehart, creator of the all-in-one food, Soylent, and Dr Yoshiro Nakamatsu, a prolific inventor with more than 3,000 patents who won an Ig Nobel in 2005 for photographing every meal he ate in the previous 34 years.
Holding the flag for Britain, though only figuratively because the flight to Boston cost too much, was Amy Jones, who shared the Ig Nobel prize for psychology. Her work with Minna Lyons at Liverpool Hope University revealed that people who habitually stayed up late were, on average, more self-admiring, manipulative and psychopathic.
“To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the awards before,” Jones told the Guardian. “It’s absolutely overwhelming. No one could be more surprised than me.”
Five bona fide Nobel laureates handed out the Ig Nobels at the Harvard ceremony. The prize for nutrition went to Spanish researchers for exploring the value of bacteria taken from children’s faeces in sausage making. Doctors in the US and India won the medicine prize for demonstrating how to stop an uncontrollable nosebleed with nasal tampons made from bacon.
The Ig Nobel for art honoured Italian researchers who found that people felt less pain from a laser when they stared at a beautiful painting instead of an ugly one. The entire Italian government won the economics prize for being the first European nation to increase its economy by factoring in revenues from prostitution, smuggling and the sale of illegal drugs.
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