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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Birds, barking, beer and bellies
Beer, AP
Well done. Now, let's go celebrate
Proving ostriches have an amorous interest in humans has won a British scientist an IgNobel.

The prize, a spoof on the Nobel Prizes, was awarded at a ceremony in Boston, US.

Nine other wacky research projects were also lauded, including the study that showed how to measure the surface area of an elephant and the paper that described how the froth on the top of a glass of beer collapses.

Ostrich, AP
The look of love
IgNobel organiser Marc Abrahams told the BBC: "These are all research projects that raise eyebrows. Some raise your eyebrows so much you can damage your face."

Come out bold

The IgNobels are run by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research. The gongs are there to recognise achievements which "cannot, or should not, be reproduced".

The prizes were given out at a ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre.

As ever, the Brits were well represented. Statistician and ecologist Charles Paxton, from the University of St Andrews, took the biology IgNobel.

He and colleagues had a paper on the courtship behaviour of ostriches published in the journal British Poultry Science.

Elephant, BBC
How do you get a tape measure around that?
The research showed why the birds got excited when humans came near their pens.

"The ostriches were more interested in humans than they were in each other," Charles Paxton told the BBC. "The ostriches fancied the humans."

The scientist said his team were delighted with their prize. "We are all very proud," he said.

Other IgNobels were awarded in the following categories:

  • Interdisciplinary Research: Karl Kruszelnicki, of the University of Sydney, for performing a comprehensive survey of human belly button lint - who gets it, when, what colour, and how much.
  • Chemistry went to the Illinois researcher who gathered many elements of the periodic table, and then built a four-legged table on the theme of the periodic table.
  • Mathematics: Two Indian scientists came up with a new method for estimating the surface area of elephants.
  • Literature: Two US researchers wrote a colourful report on The Effects Of Pre-Existing Inappropriate Highlighting On Reading Comprehension.
  • Peace: A Japanese team got the prize for promoting peace and harmony between the species by inventing Bow-Lingual, a device that translates a dog's barks into Japanese.
  • Hygiene: Eduardo Segura, from Spain, won his IgNobel for inventing a washing machine for cats and dogs.
  • Economics: Twenty-eight companies shared this prize for "adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world".
  • Medicine: Chris McManus, of University College London, was able to show that ancient sculptures of men wrongly had a larger left testicle (in nature, the reverse is true, apparently!)
The physics IgNobel went to Arnd Leike, of the University of Munich, who was able to show that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay.

"He and a Nobel Laureate went out for a beer in Harvard Square before the ceremony to try to replicate the results," Marc Abrahams said.

IgNobels organiser Marc Abrahams
"These are all research projects that raise eyebrows"
See also:

27 Sep 02 | Business
05 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
06 Oct 00 | Science/Nature
04 Oct 99 | Science/Nature
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