Effects of naming cows on milk production study wins Ig Noble


A study which found that named cows produce more milk than their nameless sisters won the Veterinary Medicine prize in this year’s Ig Noble Awards.

The research was carried out by Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University.

Ig Nobles are awarded for achievements which first make people laugh then make people think.

The Public Health Prize went to Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago for inventing a bra that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the bra wearer and one to be given to  bystander.

Other award winners were:

PEACE PRIZE:   Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl from 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 banksbanks — 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 Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño  from the 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 60 years.

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.

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”.

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).

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.

Too many groups too little for causes


Last month was blue for prostate awareness, and orange for atrthritis, this month it’s pink for breast cancer, it was Hospice Appeal last Friday and there was an envelope in yesterday’s mail for Plunket.

Almost every time I go to town there’s someone selling raffles outside the supermarket and hardly a week goes by that there isn’t someone on the street or the phone asking for money for a very worthy cause.

The Manawatu Standard  wonders if it’s all getting too much:

Every week is another awareness week – if not for cancer, for some other health, disability or learning difficulty group.

If you have a conscience, your pay packet is constantly clobbered to help these genuinely good causes that need our support.

What worries me is that there are so many support groups in New Zealand now, all doing pretty much the same thing for different-flavoured causes. All with administrators organising volunteers, many with PR companies helping produce professional media kits, many with little widgets for the public to buy, to wear, to keep, to raise awareness to raise funds to help. Every day brings another awareness day, week, month, year.

Nobody’s going to like this and nobody’s going to have the stomach to do it. Feelings will be hurt. But honestly, what’s needed isn’t so much a rosy glow of pink lights over Palmerston North as a strong searchlight review of the whole fundraising industry, to get rid of duplication and the constant blaring barrage to give to every cause going.

There’s also a compelling argument that support, treatment and research shouldn’t depend on donations from the generous. What are our taxes for, if not to look after New Zealanders?

There will always be a place, and a need, for private philanthropy but I do wonder if a little judicious rationalisation of the many worthy groups might mean lower overheads with less duplication which would require less time, energy and money spent on the organisations and leave more for the causes.

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