Improbable Research announced the winners of its 2010 Ig Nobel Prizes at the 20th First Annual prize ceremony yesterday. The prizes are meant to celebrate the most unusual kinds of science and research that makes people laugh, makes them think, and then sparks their curiosity in medicine, science, and technology, the organization says. These prizes, say Nature's Nicola Jones and Michael Hopkin, "come with little cash, but much cachet." The biology prize went to researchers who proved that fruit bats who engaged in oral sex before copulation, ended up having sex for longer than fruit bats who did not have oral sex. The prize for medicine went to researchers from Amsterdam who found that breathing difficulties brought on by asthma can be helped by repeatedly riding a roller coaster. The physics prize was awarded to a team from New Zealand who found that people who wear socks on the outside of their shoes are less likely to slip on the snow. The peace prize went to a British psychologist who proved that swearing relieves pain. The public health prize went to a researcher who found that microbes cling to bearded scientists. And the engineering prize went to researchers who found a way to collect whale snot with remote-controlled helicopters.
Britain led the way with four of the prizes going to British scientists, says the Guardian's Ian Sample. Researchers were allowed a maximum of 60 seconds to give acceptance speeches, he adds, a time limit strictly enforced by an eight year-old child. The prizes, given out by past winners of the actual Nobel Prize, may be hilarious, but it's taken as an honor when they're awarded. The ceremony's MC, Marc Abrahams, comments on the strong UK showing to Sample. "The nation may agonize over its place in the world, but in this one thing at least, Britannia rules," Abrahams says.