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Bat Fellatio, Whale Snot Research Honored at Ig Nobel Awards

(Sept. 30) -- Every day of the year, scientists try to solve life's riddles, like how to use a remote control helicopter to retrieve whale snot, and whether or not swearing actually relieves pain.

One night of the year, the science world comes together to honor the men and women seeking the answers to these difficult -- and yes, funny -- questions.

The researchers responsible for this year's weirdest science gathered tonight at Harvard University for the "Ig Nobel Prize" ceremony, where top honors were handed out to 10 lucky winners from around the world.

The bizarre science event, which is organized by the science comedy magazine Annals of Improbable Research and several Harvard student groups, gave out the following honors:

• Engineering Prize: British researchers Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin and Mexican researcher Diane Gendron took home the award for figuring out the perfect way to collect whale mucus using a remote-control helicopter.

• Medicine Prize: Dutch scientists Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest won the prize for discovering that asthma symptoms can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.

• Biology Prize: Chinese researchers Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou and Shuyi Zhang and British researcher Gareth Jones got top honors for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.

• Management Prize: Italian scientists Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda and Cesare Garofalo earned the title for demonstrating mathematically that it's more efficient for organizations to promote people randomly.

• Physics Prize: New Zealand experts Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams and Patricia Priest stole the show by proving that people slip less often on icy footpaths when they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.

• Transportation Planning Prize: Japanese researchers Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki and Ryo Kobayashi and British researchers Dan Bebber and Mark Fricker got the gold for using slime mold to determine the best routes for railroad tracks. (Nagasaki, Tero, and Kobayashi won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2008 for showing that slime molds can solve puzzles.)

• Peace Prize: British scientists Richard Stephens, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston took home the title for finally using science to prove that swearing relieves pain.

• Public Health Prize: American researchers Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews and Larry Taylor nabbed the prize for determining that microbes can and do cling to bearded scientists.

• Economics Prize: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar got this sarcastic award for finding new ways to invest money -- "ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof."

• Chemistry Prize: American researchers Eric Adams, Scott Socolofsky, Stephen Masutani and the ailing oil company British Petroleum won this prize for "disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix."

Actual Nobel laureates handed out the hardware, with physics winners Sheldon Glashow, Roy Glauber and Frank Wilczek taking the stage, alongside peace winner James Muller and chemistry winner William Lipscomb.

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