Monday, October 5, 2009

Bra Gas Mask

In case you missed it, the IgNobel prizes were handed out last weekend by the Annals of Improbable Research. The IgNobels are awarded annually to scientific research which - at least on the surface - seems like a complete wasted of time. As with the Nobels, IgNobel prizes are awarded in several categories. This year's winners included a team from Bern, Switzerland who were awarded the Peace prize for experimentally determining whether full or empty beer bottles are sturdier and (most importantly), can a beer bottle fracture a human skull in either case; a team from Mexico who received the Chemistry prize for studying how to make diamonds out of tequila; and the entire Irish police force (seen recently in the Llama Gate photo) were awarded the Literature prize for writing more than 50 traffic tickets to some nefarious brute named Prawo Jazdy - only to find out that "prawo jazdy" is Polish for "driving license".

But the big winner as far as the media was concerned was the team from Chicago led by Elena Bodnar who patented a "garment device convertible to one or more facemasks," where the garment demonstrated in the application is a brassiere. The cups are lined with a filter that keeps the gas out when strapped on as demonstrated in the picture. The bra is designed to be removed without disrobing (sorry guys). The bra has an advantage over something like a jockstrap in that there are two cups, so the wearer can share the other cup with a friend in the case of an emergency.

As with most of the IgNobel winners, Bodnar and her team are serious researchers (in trauma and risk management) and their invention loses some, though not all, of its humor when put in context. Ideas are often born of circumstance, and in Bodnar's case she had only recently received her MD and working in her native Ukraine at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. The filter in their bra can filter out gases like iodine-131 which was inhaled with catastrophic results by rescuers at Chernobyl.

In high-risk conflict areas it is often important to have a gas mask with you, but carrying a bulky object is not always practical or pleasant. Women generally keep a brassiere with them, so the gas mask would automatically be with them as well. As for the men, well, either go with the jockstrap solution or stay very close to your girlfriend.

It's a clever solution to a problem I hope that none of us ever has.

Here is an interview with Bodnar on Daily Planet (interview starts at about 5:45)

Improbable Research
Science Direct
Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila
India Times (photo)
Google Patents
Wicked Boring
Woodlands Junior (photo)
World News Australia
Daily Planet (video)

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