The first documentation of fellatio in bats, the use of a remote-controlled helicopter to collect whale snot and the finding that swearing can relieve pain won top honours at the annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony on Thursday.

Not be confused with the Nobel Prizes, which are to be announced next week, the Harvard University-based Journal of Improbable Research hands out the Ig Nobels annually.

The Journal says the prizes are meant to celebrate research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.

In a ceremony during which real winners of Nobel Prizes handed out the awards at the university, honours were also accorded to research out of New Zealand showing that wearing socks outside your shoes can reduce your chances of slipping on ice.


One of this year's Ig Nobel prize-winners, Dr. Mark Fricker, in the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University in England, is interviewed on Quirks and Quarks  last season. Fricker won for using slime mould to model a railway network.

The top biology prize went to a team of researchers led by Min Tan of the Guangdong Entomological Institute in Guangzhou, China. The team made headlines last year for showing that when female fruit bats performed fellatio on their partners while mating, the pair spent more time copulating.

Gareth Jones at Bristol University in the United Kingdom, who was part of the team, had told the Guardian newspaper he would demonstrate the behaviour at the ceremony using puppets.

The Zoological Society of London's Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse was part of a team that accepted the engineering prize for a system of collecting gases and mucus exhaled by whales. The team hung petri dishes from a helicopter and flew it over whales as they exhaled out their blowholes. The samples were used to study diseases the mammals might carry.

"I was slightly bemused at first, to be honest, but I think that it is important to recognize (and communicate) that science can be fun," Acevedo-Whitehouse told BBC News.

The peace prize went to psychology researcher Richard Stephens of Keele University, North Midlands. He and his team found some volunteers were better able to withstand the pain from plunging their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible when they were asked to repeat a swear word of their choice compared with an inoffensive word.