According to the group Improbable Research, which organizes the event, the purpose of the prize is to honor achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” This year’s winners include researchers who found that cows that have names produce more milk than nameless cows, a man who cracked the knuckles on one hand for 60 years to disprove that cracking knuckles causes arthritis, and a group from Mexico who created diamonds from tequila.
The 2009 winners are:
- VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
- PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining – by experiment – whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
- ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks – Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland – for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa – and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.
- CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apatica, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid – specifically from tequila.
- MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand – but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand – every day for more than sixty (60) years.
- LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country -Prawo Jazdy- whose name in Polish means “Driving License”.
- PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
- MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers – from very small to very big – by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).
- PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome, of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman, of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
- BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
More information is at http://improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2009 .
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