Swine flu and undergarment protection: two for the price of one

As Mrs. R. remarked, it's American ingenuity at work. Or something. She was referring to the winner of the 2009 Public Health IgNobel Award. For those of you who don't know about the IgNobel Prizes given each year in a variety of categories for scientific or engineering achievements (as documented in scientific journal articles or patent applications) that "make people laugh, and then make them think." There is a well-attended public ceremony each year at Harvard's Sanders Theater and the 2009 version was two nights ago. There are lots of winners each year, often for achievements from some time ago but just now coming to the attention of the scientific community (as exemplified by the Journal of Improbable Research). Science is like that. Often recognition takes time.

The public health prize was for a patent application from 2007, but one which we are noting here because its sudden relevance to the emergence of swine flu. Without further ado, we report that he 2009 IgNobel Award for Public Health went to:

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.

REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.” (2009 IgNobel Prize Winners)

It is customary for award winners to appear in person to receive their awards and in this case we have a picture (courtesy AP) of Elena Bodnar demonstrating her invention:


The next model is obvious: the N95 respirator bra for swine flu, suitable for wearing on airplane trips, subways and workplaces in the event someone near suddenly starts to cough or sneeze. The obesity epidemic might even make this a practical concealed safety device for many men as well.

Yes, a fine example of American ingenuity. Or, as Mrs. R., added, a fine example of the American obsession with boobs. She said it. I didn't. Complain to her.

More like this

"Yes, a fine example of American ingenuity."

Uhm... Elena N. Bodnar emigrated from Ukraine. And having a portable gas mask does not seem that far-fetched if you live near the Chernobyl.

By Alex Besogonov (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

Alex: My father also emigrated from Ukraine. He was an American and this is an American patent. And someone smart enough to invent and patent this would know that it wouldn't have protected her from Chernobyl. But that's beside the point. The IgNobel Prize is tongue in cheek and accepted in good humor by the recipients. I suggest you follow their lead.

I wonder how it would fare passing through airline security...

By Uncle Glenny (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

I think his and her burkas should be the next hot pandemic garment items. If you cant touch your nose and mouth easily (15 times a hour for most of us with a heart beat) then maybe--just maybe--we will see an end to both the pandemic and terrorist threats.

By bostonERDoc (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

"And someone smart enough to invent and patent this would know that it wouldn't have protected her from Chernobyl."

Well, I _worked_ at Chernobyl about a year ago, and still live about 60km from it (in Kiev).

Gas mask would help in (unlikely) case of Chernobyl II, because you won't inhale airborne radioactive particles.

This invention is surely funny. But it's much less funny if you think about it. Which is the aim of IgNobel prise.

By Alex Besogonov (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

I guess I can stop work on my N95 athletic supporter......

Officer I buried my face in her tits because I'm sick.

By Phillip Huggan (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

I don't know, I think that the very size of human boobs speaks of a human obsession with boobs, not just an American one :)

By Jason Dick (not verified) on 03 Oct 2009 #permalink

I guess I can stop work on my N95 athletic supporter......

Please don't...

By Uncle Glenny (not verified) on 04 Oct 2009 #permalink