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Marc Abrahams, who conceived the awards 14 years ago, said that the "Igs" are given to studies or inventions judged to have done most in making people laugh and then think. Mr Abrahams, who publishes the Journal of Improbable Research, said the prizes honour the "whipped cream of humanity", or those thinkers who are either eccentrically brilliant or brilliantly eccentric.
The medicine prize was won by Steven Stack of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and James Gundlach of Auburn University in Alabama, who published an investigation into the effect of country music on suicide. The study found that country music, with its emphasis on marital discord, alcoholism and social alienation, can be linked with an increased suicide rate.
"The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate," the two researchers found.
The Coca-Cola company takes the chemistry prize for using advanced technology to convert liquid from the river Thames into Dasani, the "mineral" water that had to be withdrawn for precautionary reasons.