2006 ig-Nobel prizes (From smell of human feet to inaudible telephone ringtones)

The Annals of Improbable Research (a magazine dedicated to the public celebration of the research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK) have organized the 2006 ig Nobel awards. The categories are less rigid than their equivalent in the more presentable cousin of the family (the Oh! so dull Nobel prizes) since there are established specially on the spot after the needs of the excellent research thus selected. For example, this year’s laureates:

  • NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.
  • ACOUSTICS: D. Lynn Halpern (of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and Brandeis University, and Northwestern University), Randolph Blake (of Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University) and James Hillenbrand (of Western Michigan University and Northwestern University) for conducting experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard.
  • MATHEMATICS: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.
  • PHYSIQUE (ou CUISINE ?) : Basile Audoly et Sebastien Neukirch de l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie, à Paris, pour leur étude des raisons pour lesquelles des spaghettis secs, se cassent préférentiellement en plus de deux morceaux quand on les plie.
  • BIOLOGY: Bart Knols (of Wageningen Agricultural University, in Wageningen, the Netherlands; and of the National Institute for Medical Research, in Ifakara Centre, Tanzania; and of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria) and Ruurd de Jong (of Wageningen Agricultural University and of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Italy) for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.
  • PEACE: Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant – a device that makes annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults – and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but not to their teachers.

This nice list of reasearch culmination is certainly making the Nobel committee members faint at not having spotted the real scientific achievements of this year. In this context, it was important to notice that this year, Roy J. Glauber could return to his official position as Keeper of the Broom or Sweeper of paper airplanes after missed ceremony last year (He had to go to Stockholm to receive his 2005 Nobel prize of Physics).