For 31 years, the Annals of Improbable Research have awarded the delightful Ig Nobel Prizes honoring scientific "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." Of this year's ten winners announced yesterday, here are a few of my favorites:
* Lund University's Susanne Schötz, "for analyzing variations in purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat–human communication."
* University of Valencia's Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú, and Manuel Porcar, "for using genetic analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in wads of discarded chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries."
* Universität Mainz, Mainz researcher Jörg Wicker and colleagues "for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theaters, to test whether the odors produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use, and bad language in the movie the audience is watching."
* Cornell University's Robin Radcliffe and colleagues "for determining by experiment whether it is safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside-down."
* SLK Kliniken Am Gesundbrunnen's Olcay Cem Bulut and colleagues "for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medicines at improving nasal breathing."