Wasabi alarm, beetle sex win Ig Nobel spoof prizes

Fri Sep 30, 2011 1:21pm EDT
 
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By Julie Steenhuysen

(Reuters) - Prognosticators who predicted the end of the world and got it wrong, scientists who built a wasabi fire alarm, and researchers who studied how the urge to urinate affects decision-making were among the winners of spoof Ig Nobel prizes on Thursday.

The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage scientific research, are awarded by the Journal of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes, which will be announced next week.

Ig Nobels also went to researchers who found that the male buprestid beetle likes to copulate with Australian beer bottles called stubbies, and researchers who showed why discus throwers become dizzy and hammer throwers do not.

Former winners of the real Nobel prizes hand out the prizes at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

A personal favorite of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels, is this year's winner for the Public Safety Prize, which went to John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada.

Senders and colleagues conducted experiments to see how distractions -- in this case a helmet with a visor that repeatedly flaps over a person's face -- affects attention during highway driving.

"They put this on someone while this visor is flapping and blinding them," Abrahams said.

Remarkably, the driver fared quite well, Abrahams said.   Continued...

 
<p>A chemist is reflected in a beaker after mixing chemicals that gave the beaker a reflective coating during a demonstration at the 21st annual Ig Nobel prize ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 29, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger</p>