Headache-immune woodpeckers, picky dung beetles win IgNobels

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, Oct 6, 2006 (AFP) – Scientists who answered questions such as why woodpeckers don’t get headaches, whether dung beetles like their diet and if rectal massage can cure hiccups have at last been recognised for their work. The IgNobel Prizes, a tongue-in-cheek alternative to their more formal Scandinavian counterparts, were presented by genuine Nobel prizewinners late Thursday at an annual ceremony at Harvard University.

The two-hour ceremony was geek-turned-chic as scientists traded their labcoats for tuxedoes and roared with laughter whenever someone uttered the word “inertia” — the evening’s theme.

“This is probably the only place in the world where fractal geometry gets applause,” said audience member Bill Card.

Ivan Schwab of the University of California Davis and the late Philip May of the University of California Los Angeles received the ornithology prize for their pioneering work on the ability of the humble woodpecker to avoid head injury.

Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, took home the nutrition prize for showing that dung beetles are in fact finicky eaters.

Winners had one minute to deliver acceptance speeches, with the tim