Studies on Spermicidal Coke and Fertile Strippers Lap Up This Year’s Ig Nobel Awards!

by Tanya Thomas on Oct 3 2008 6:37 PM

The alternative to the conservative and regular ones, the 2008 Ig Nobel prizes were handed out recently. Among the winners were studies conducted on the spermicidal effect of soft drinks and extra tips exotic lap dancers earn when they are fertile.

In 1980s, when researcher Deborah Anderson of Harvard Medical School's birth- control laboratory discovered that "Coca Cola douches" were being used as a type of contraception at the all-girl Catholic boarding school she had attended in Puerto Rico, she decided to test it.

For the study, Anderson, medical student Sharee Umpierre and gynecologist, Joe Hill mixed four different types of Coke with sperm in test tubes.

A minute later, they found that all sperm were dead in the Diet Coke, however, 41pct were still swimming in the just-introduced New Coke.

"Coca-Cola douches had become a part of contraceptive folklore during the 1950s and 1960s, when other birth-control methods were hard to come by," New Scientist quoted Anderson, as saying.

"It was believed that the carbonic acid in Coke killed sperm, and the method came with its own 'shake and shoot applicator'" - the classic Coke bottle," she added.

Another study, led by University of New Mexico psychologists proposing that lap dancers earn more money when they are at peak fertility also won the award.

During the research, psychologists Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan asked women working as lap dancers to report their nightly tips, and whether they were on hormonal contraceptives or menstruating naturally.

The two groups of women received similar tips when they were in non-fertile parts of their cycle, but when the naturally menstruating women reached their fertile days, the researchers found, they earned significantly more.

A Brazilian study led by Astolfo Araujo of the University of Sao Paulo and Jose Marcelino of Sao Paolo's Department of Historical Heritage on armadillos, the burrowing animals, which showed that the pesky creatures can move the artifacts in archaeological dig sites up, down and even laterally by several meters as they dig also won the prestigious alternative prize.

Another experiment with huge implications for health policy won the Ig Nobel medicine prize for Dan Ariely of Duke University in North Carolina.

He gave two groups of volunteers identical placebos masquerading as painkillers, telling one group the pills cost 2.50 dollars each and the other that the pills had been discounted to 10 cents each.

The volunteers didn't pay for the pills, but those who took the "more costly" fake medicine felt less pain from electric shocks than those who took the cheap fakes

This showed that price affects people's expectations and thus their response to medicine, Ariely says - the more expensive the pill, the more relief they expect.

These awards, presented at Harvard University, are organized by the humorous scientific journal the Annals of Improbable Research for research achievements "that make people laugh - then think".