Scientists who discovered that old men really do have big ears, that playing the didgeridoo helps relieve sleep apnea, and that handling crocodiles can influence gambling decisions are among this year's recipients of the Ig Nobel, the prize for absurd scientific achievement. The 27th annual awards were announced Thursday at Harvard University. "It's a strange honor to have, but I am thrilled," Dr. James Heathcote tells the AP. A British physician, Heathcote won the Ig Nobel for anatomy for his big-ear research, which found that men's ears grow about 0.08 inches per decade after age 30. Among the other winners, who each received $10 trillion cash prizes in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money:
- Dr. Milo Puhan's Ig Nobel peace prize-winning discovery is a godsend for anyone who lives with an unbearably loud snorer. He found that playing the didgeridoo—that tubular Australian aboriginal instrument that emits a deep, rhythmic drone—helps relieve sleep apnea.
- The economics prize went to Australian researchers Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer, who found that if you want to limit your gambling losses, don't have a close encounter with a crocodile before hitting the casino. They plunked a 3-foot saltwater crocodile in the arms of people about to gamble, and found that they went on to bet higher amounts.
- The medicine prize went to French researchers Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly and Tao Jiang, who used advanced brain-scanning technology to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese.
- The nutrition prize went Brazilian researchers Enrico Bernard and his team for the first scientific report of human blood in the diet of the hairy-legged vampire bat. They discovered that bats were expanding their diet in an area where humans were encroaching on their territory.
- The physics prize went to Frenchman Marc-Antoine Fardin, who, inspired by Internet photos of cats in strange places, investigated the question; "Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?"
- The biology prize went to Japanese-Brazilian-Swiss team Kazunori Yoshizawa, Yoshitaka Kamimura, Rodrigo Ferreira, and Charles Lienhard for their discovery of cave insects with male vaginas and female penises.
(Last year's winners included a man who wore prosthetic extensions to spend several days living incognito among a herd of wild goats