By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - Researchers who swallowed a parboiled shrew, discovered that dung beetles navigate by the stars and invented a machine to launch hijackers from airplanes were among the winners of this year's Ig Nobel prizes for comical scientific achievements.
The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes which will be announced next month.
Ig Nobel prizes this year also went to researchers who proved that people who think they are drunk also believe they are sexy, showed it would be possible to run across the surface of a pond if both the runner and the pond were on the moon, and explained in detail why onions make people cry.
The U.S. and Canadian researchers who swallowed the parboiled shrew, winners of the Archaeology Prize, were seeking to determine which of the rodent's bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system.
Former winners of real Nobels handed out the spoof awards at a ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday night. The ceremony included a mini-opera inspired by 1999 Ig Nobel Prize winners George and Charlotte Blonsky, who invented a spinning doctor's table that is meant to aid women in child birth by using centrifugal force.
PARTIALLY EATEN BY A DUCK
A personal favorite of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels, was this year's winner for the Ig Nobel Public Health Prize, which went to a team of doctors in Thailand who developed specialized treatments for the victims of that country's epidemic of penile amputations.
"There really was an epidemic of this happening, and a lot of the victims were brought to the same hospital and the doctors got pretty good at dealing with it," he said, adding the victims were often drunk men who angered their wives.
He said the research had its limits, though.
"The doctors recommend these techniques, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck," he said, explaining houses in some parts of Thailand are built on stilts above areas where ducks live.
Thursday's winners also included Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and his security detail, who took the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for making it illegal to applaud in public and for jailing a one-armed man for allegedly violating that law.
Lukashenko banned public clapping in 2011 after political dissidents seeking to avoid tough regulations on public rallies began spontaneous clapping protests in the streets. Lukashenko was not expected to attend Thursday's Ig Nobel ceremony.
"We're not able to get in touch with him... But we saw enough reports from enough places that we're pretty certain that what he's being honored for is well-deserved," said Abrahams.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and Tim Dobbyn)