I was introduced to the Ig Nobel Prizes several years ago and I always look forward to the announcement of current winners. For those of you not in the know, The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.
Here are a few of the 2009 winners, who were honored at a ceremony Oct. 1, 2009, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre:
Chemistry Prize: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid -- specifically from tequila.
I don't know about you, but in my youth I was promised my fair share of diamonds while drinking too much tequila. Now this trio has found a way to grow diamond films using tequila as a precursor by Pulsed Liquid Injection Chemical Vapor Deposition (PLI-CVD) onto both silicon (100) and stainless steel 304 at 850 degrees C. The diamond films were characterized by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Raman spectroscopy. The spherical crystallites (100 to 400 nm) show the characteristic 1332 cm-1 Raman band of diamond.
Public Health Prize: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Ill., 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.
While this invention is a punch line waiting to happen, I bet in an emergency my husband and I would be thankful I was wearing this convertible bra.
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.
I'm guessing that someone in this group was working with the panda poo for another reason when they happened upon this environmentally friendly side effect. Then again, maybe not. . . . Who am I to judge?
To learn more, visit the Improbable Research, hosts of the Ig Nobels. Here you will find research papers backing the Ig Nobel winners' research: http://improbable.com/ig/winners/
Senior Digital Editor