The Improbable Research Organization recently gave out it’s Ig Noble Awards for research that makes people laugh and then think.
Previous winners were – Don Featherstone (inventor of the plastic lawn flamingo) and Dr. Francis Fesmire (discoverer of how to terminate intractable hiccups using digital rectal massage).
From the article on the awards:
“Last night kicked the scientific award season into full swing; the 18th First Annual Ig Noble Awards were handed out in Harvard’s Sanders Theater. Not quite as well-known as their more prestigious namesake, the awards recognize “research that first makes people laugh and then think.”
1) Peace: plants are people too. The peace award goes to none other than the Swiss. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology, along with the citizens of that great nation, took the prize for passing a law that recognizes that plants have dignity too.

2) Biology: dog-borne fleas are better jumpers than cat-borne fleas. Turns out athletic ability, in fleas at least, depends on where you live. Researchers found that fleas that live on dogs are better high jumpers when compared to fleas that live on cats.

3) Literature: “You Bastard!” The literature prize goes to David Sims for his study on organizational indignation: “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation Within Organizations.”

4) Nutrition: it tastes better if it sounds better. This award goes to a pair of British researchers who confirmed the simple idea that food tastes better if it sounds better. For those who question the practicality of this research, it has already been put to use in the Fat Duck Restaurant, where seafood diners are given iPods loaded with ocean sounds to listen to while they dine.

5) Medicine: placebos that cost more said to work better. While the true effect of placebos continues to be studied, Dan Ariely has demonstrated that expensive fake medicine works better than the cheap crap you get on the corner. (I predict a future Ig Nobel in economics for the exploiter of this one.)

6) Economics: strippers earn more when they are at peak fertility. Ever sign up for psychology experiments while in college? I bet you didn’t get picked for this one: a trio of psychology researchers from the University of New Mexico found that exotic dancers make up to 60 percent more when they are at peak fertility.

7) Archeology: armadillos can wreak havoc on digs. It turns out that while armadillos are cool-looking, they can be very problematic at archaeological dig sites. A Brazilian duo observed that armadillos are capable of moving artifacts at dig sites up to several meters from their original “final” resting place.

8) Chemistry: Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide. A 23-year-old study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine finally got the recognition it deserves. An Ob/Gyn team from BU’s School of Medicine found that Coca-Cola was indeed a spermicide and, oddly enough, that Diet Coke worked best of the then-available variants. The award is shared with a team of Taiwanese researchers who found that Coke and related sodas were not good contraceptives…

Which do you think should be the overall winner?

I’ll vote for #8: Coco-Cola is an “effective” spermicide per the BU School of Medicine, but not a “good” contraceptives as Taiwanese researchers found.  Apparently the sperm cells soak up the coke and then…uh….explode.  Exploding sperm!  I think I may have some nightmares tonight.  🙂