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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
'Funny science' gets its reward
The comb-over in action (BBC)
The "comb-over": It's deadly serious if you are going bald
Researchers who patented a comb-over hairstyle in 1975 were top prize winners in the engineering section of this year's Ig Nobel awards.

Father and son team Frank and Donald Smith developed a method to cover partial baldness using only the individual's own hair.

Award organisers, the Annals of Improbable Research publishers, say the Igs are meant to celebrate the unusual.

They also aim to encourage interest in science, medicine, and technology.

This year's prizes were awarded at a sell-out gala ceremony at Harvard University in Massachusetts and the prizes were handed to the winners by genuine Nobel Laureates.

Karaoke and peace

The hairstyling technique works by dividing a person's hair into three sections and carefully folding one section over another.

Frank Smith's granddaughter, Heather Smith Adams, said even she was fooled by his trick.

"You know how comb-overs have that stringy look? This is to avoid that stringy look. I didn't know for a long time that he even had a comb-over," she said.

Jillian Clarke, another of this year's lucky winners, won the Public Health prize for her study of the scientific validity of the so-called "five-second rule".

The "rule" suggests that if food falls to the floor and stays there for less than five seconds, it is safe to pick it up and eat it.

She found that 70% of women and 56% of men were familiar with the rule and many adopted it when considering to eat a tasty morsel they dropped on the floor.

Not surprisingly, she found that sweet foods were more likely to be picked up and eaten than vegetables.

"If you drop your food on a floor that does contain micro-organisms, the food can be contaminated in five seconds or less." her report concluded.

Among the other winners were a team led by Magnus Wahlberg who discovered that herrings apparently communicate by farting.

Steven Stack and James Gundlach won the Medical prize for their report on The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.

The Ig Noble Peace prize was won by Daisuke Inoue of Hyogo, Japan, for inventing karaoke which apparently provided an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.

The 2005 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK and Ireland takes place during National Science week in March, 2005.

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