The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded last night, honouring scientists for discoveries such as that Coca-Cola makes sperm explode and that expensive placebos work better than cheap ones.
The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded annually by the Improbably Research organisation, which collects improbable research. The organisation describes improbably research as "research that makes people laugh and then think".
Last night's Nutrition Prize went to Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the
sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
The Peace Prize was awarded to the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
Astolfo Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil won the Archeology Prize for measuring how the course of history – or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
The Ecology Prize was won by Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
Dan Ariely of Duke University demonstrated that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine, thus winning him the Medicine Prize.
The Cognitive Science Prize went to Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico won the Economics Prize for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.
The Physics Prize was awarded to Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
The Chemistry Prize went to Sharee Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England and Deborah Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University, C.C. Shieh, P Wu, and B N Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
David Sims of Cass Business School, London, scooped the Literature Prize for his study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."