Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 10:00 UK

Ig Nobel Prize is 'knot funny'

Wires (SPL)

We all know it and science has proved it - wires, string, and hair will inevitably tie themselves in knots.

This astonishing non-revelation is one of 10 pieces of real research honoured this year with Ig Nobel Prizes.

The spoof alternatives to the rather more sober Nobel prizes were presented in a ceremony at Harvard University.

Other winners included studies that showed coca cola was an effective spermicide; and that fleas on dogs jump higher than fleas on cats.

Toshiyuki Nakagaki and co-workers sing their acceptance speech for the Cognitive Science Prize
The Cognitive Science Prize team sing their acceptance speech
The much-coveted spoof prizes are said to reward scientific achievements which "cannot, or should not, be reproduced"; achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think".

They are run by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

Seven of the 10 winners this year paid their own way to receive their prizes at the famous US university.

All joined in the fun. Three Japanese scientists sang their acceptance speech for the award which honoured their research showing that slime moulds (amoeba-like organisms) can find their way through mazes.

Like the other winners, their study was genuine research published in a scientific journal - in their case, the prestigious journal Nature.

Charles Spence, from Oxford University, UK, walked away with the Nutrition Prize for showing how the way foods taste is affected by how they sound.

"When you play the sound of crisps when people bite into Pringles - if we change the sound as they eat, we can actually change how fresh, or how crisp, the Pringle tastes to people," he told BBC News.

"We've used [a bacon sizzling] sound to flip the flavour of bacon and egg ice cream. If we play that sound over the loudspeakers in the room, the ice cream will taste more 'bacony' than if you play the sound of, say, farmyard chickens."

The ceremony began with past Ig winner Dan Meyer - the co-author of a British Medical Journal study on Sword-swallowing and Its Side Effects - swallowing a sword.

Marc Abrahams, master of ceremonies and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, closed the event with the traditional words: "If you didn't win an Ig Nobel Prize tonight - and especially if you did - better luck next year."

The full list of winners:

Returning 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee reiterates his findings on "Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects"
Previous Ig winner Dan Meyer returned to demonstrate his scientific interests

Nutrition: Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence for their study showing that food actually tastes better if it sounds crunchier.

Peace: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

Archaeology: Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino for demonstrating that armadillos can turn the contents of an archaeological dig upside down.

Biology: Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc for showing that fleas on dogs can jump higher than fleas on a cats.

Medicine: Dan Ariely for demonstrating that expensive fake medicine is more effective than cheap fake medicine.

Cognitive Science: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Akio Ishiguro and Agota Toth for demonstrating that slime moulds can solve puzzles.

Economics: Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber and Brent Jordan for discovering that the fertility cycle of a lap dancer affects her tip-earning potential.

Physics: Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith for proving that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

Chemistry: Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill and Deborah Anderson for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide (it was shared with C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and B.N. Chiang who showed the opposite).

Literature: David Sims for his passionately written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

Opera Soloists, from left, Ben Sears, and Maria Ferrante are flagged by V-Chip Monitors as they perform an opera about redundancy
It is important not to take yourself too seriously at the awards




SEE ALSO
'Gay bomb' scoops Ig Nobel award
04 Oct 07 |  Science & Environment
Teen repellent is Ig Nobel winner
06 Oct 06 |  Science & Environment
Penguin poo wins Ig Nobel prize
07 Oct 05 |  Science & Environment
'Funny science' gets its reward
01 Oct 04 |  Science & Environment
I'm sorry he can't be with us....
03 Oct 03 |  Science & Environment

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