Annual Ig Nobel awards presented for the most 'improbable' research
Roller-coaster rides can relieve symptoms of asthma, beards are a health hazard and randomly promoting workers creates more efficient companies are among a host of "improbable" scientific findings to win a spoof Nobel Prize this year.
The Ig Nobels, designed to honour achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think, are presented in the run up to the real awards next week.
They are given out at a Harvard University ceremony by the science humour magazine, Annals of Improbable Research.
This year the Medicine prize went to Dutch scientists who discovered that the "positive emotional stress" associated with riding on a big dipper reduced feelings of shortness of breath among asthma sufferers.
The work involved having 25 students with asthma ride on a roller-coaster and then testing their symptoms afterwards.
It was found that they suffered fewer breathing problems travelling on the amusement park ride.
Researchers from the US were awarded the Public Health Prize for finding that bearded scientists posed a risk to their families because bacteria used in the laboratory stubbornly stayed in their facial hair even after washing.
They tested the beards of scientists for three types of bacteria and found they remained present in the hair follicles even after washing and shampooing.
Italian physicists investigating organisations won the Management Prize after mathematically proving that randomly promoting employees actually made a company run more efficiently.
They found that contrary to popular opinion members of a "hierarchical organisation climb the hierarchy until they reach level of maximum incompetence".
The best way to avoid this was to either just randomly promote employees or randomly promote the best and the worst employees, the model showed.
British research was also awarded. The Peace Prize went to Keele University who discovered that swearing actually reduces pain.
They found volunteers were able to submerge a hand into iced water for longer if they repeated a swear word "you might use after hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer".
The Zoological Society of London scooped the Engineering Prize for "perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote control helicopter".
The University of Bristol won the Biology award after they studied the foreplay of fruit bats. They found that they creatures used oral sex to prolong intercourse.
BP and associated scientists were honoured with the Chemistry prize for "disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix" and the Economics prize went to Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, for their role in the credit crisis.
Marc Abrahams, editor of the magazine and the award host, said if anything scientific research was getting weirder all the time – and Britain was at the forefront.
"For good or its opposite humanity is producing more and stronger candidates every year and that is especially true of Britain," he said.
"We like to think that the Ig Nobels make the Nobels shine even more brightly."
In the past, winners have included a British radiologist who discovered that sword swallowers can suffer "major complications'' when they are distracted or while gulping down more than one blade.
Barcelona University was honoured for discovering that rats sometimes cannot differentiate between people speaking Japanese backwards and people speaking Dutch backwards.
Medicine - Roller-coaster rides reduce asthma symptoms
Public Health - Beards carry germs
Management - Random promotions make better business
Peace - Swearing increases pain threshold
Engineering - Remote control helicopter used to collect whale snot
Chemistry - BP and scientists for proving oil and water does mix
Economics - Banks for their role in the credit crunch.
Biology - the foreplay of fruit bats
Transportation - slime moulds can design public transport networks
Physics - wearing socks over shoes increases grip on ice