Whale snot, bat sex win 2010 IgNobel spoof prizes

Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:31pm EDT
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers who used a remote-controlled helicopter to collect whale snot, documented bats having oral sex and showed that swearing makes you feel better when you stub a toe were among the winners of spoof IgNobel prizes on Thursday.

The prizes, meant to be both humorous and to encourage scientific research, are given every year by the Journal of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes, which will be awarded starting next week.

IgNobels also went to researchers who found that wearing socks outside shoes can prevent slipping on ice and that organizations would fare better if managers were promoted randomly.

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

"There are four winners from Britain this year," said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the IgNobels.

"The British Empire had a rough 20th century. Maybe this is the best sign that the empire is surging back to prominence."

Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of Britain's Zoological Society and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico won an engineering IgNobel for a new way to study respiratory diseases in whales.

"The technique involves flying a remote-controlled helicopter above a whale as it surfaces and catching the whale blow in petri dishes attached to the underside of the helicopter," they said in a statement.   Continued...