06 October 2006
This year's Ig Nobel awards - a spoof on the Nobel prizes - have highlighted the importance, or otherwise, of cheese-related research.
Antonio Mulet at the University of Valencia, Spain and colleagues scooped the chemistry prize for their study Ultrasonic velocity in cheddar cheese as affected by temperature. The biology prize went to Bart Knols of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues, for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted to the smell of Limburger cheese just as much as she is to the smell of human feet.
It's easy enough to imagine a link between smelly feet and a smelly Belgian cheese. But who among us knew, or cared, that the ultrasonic velocity in Cheddar cheese is temperature dependent? Apparently the relationship can be used to make corrections when determining ultrasonic texture or to determine mean temperatures in cooling or heating processes. The most reliable temperature interval to carry out ultrasonic measurements in Cheddar cheese, according to Mulet's team, is between zero and 17°C.
The Ig Nobels, presented in the week the real Nobel prizes were awarded, are awarded with the intention of first making people laugh, and then making them think - an evolution from the original aim of the awards, back in 1991, to celebrate discoveries 'that cannot, or should not, be reproduced.'
This year's ceremony was, for no particular reason, on the theme of inertia. It included a 24 second technical presentation and seven word summary on the topic by William Lipscomb, winner of the 1976 real-life Nobel prize in chemistry. Awards were presented by Lipscomb and a host of other Nobel laureates, including chemists Dudley Herschbach (1956) and Richard Schrock (2005).
Chemistry featured highly on the 2006 IgNobel tour of the UK, run as part of National Science Week
In a tradition spanning back to 1991.
Terpene profiles could be used to authenicate cheese.