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Science that makes you laugh, then makes you think

From the science of snail-tossing to an award-winning ponytail formula, the Ig Nobel roadshow gave an audience at Brunel University London something to think (and laugh) about.

Founder of the Ig Nobel Awards and editor of magazine Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams, introduced the touring event, giving examples of past winners in fields such as public health (describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression) and economics (Italy lifts out of recession thanks to hookers and drugs).

The first speaker, Dr David Dunstan, explored the science of snail throwing. Specifically, whether the act of tossing snails over the garden wall was sufficient to stop them returning.

He began his research by marking snails with Tip-ex before throwing them over the garden wall. For a time none returned, but eventually a few did, leading him to conclude, over the course of several years study that, while there are many migratory snails that just pass through our gardens, a small number appear to have a homing instinct.

Richard Webb, features editor of New Scientist, presented the theory that a person's name can have a significant role in their life. This theory first came about when he read an article on female incontinence, authored by AJ Splatt and D Weedon. As he researched further many other examples appeared, from professional midfielder Mark De Man to swine veterinarian Alex Hogg.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Brunel University London, Andrew George, took to the stage to read from the works of much maligned poet William Topaz McGonagall while paper planes were thrown towards him.

Finally, Ig Nobel winner Dr Ray Goldstein took to the stage to describe his award-winning ponytail formula. He explained that while he initially almost deleted an email from a researcher at a haircare company as spam, it led to a unique equation that can help predict the properties of hair, something useful not only for shampoo, but also the increasingly detailed world of 3D animation.

Each recipient of an Ig Nobel Award receives an exceedingly low budget trophy and a trillion dollar prize in Zimbabwean dollars (the creation of the Zimbabwean trillion dollar note also won its inventor an Ig Nobel Prize.) The awards are hosted at a lavish reception at Harvard, with each Ig Nobel winner receiving their award from a Nobel prize-winner.

Watch highlights of the event here.