Congratulations are due to Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, winner of the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for developing a way to extract vanillin from cow dung. Vanillin is the basis of vanilla flavouring and scent, used extensively in the food industry but also in perfumes and cosmetics. A natural extract of the vining orchid, the main method synthesis was from wood pulp, leaving lignin as a toxic by-product.


Awarded each year by the Annals of Improbable Research, the prizes “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”, and are intended to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative – and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.” The awards are presented by genuine Nobel laureates, in a ceremony which this year took the theme, “Chicken”, and which included a World premiere mini-opera “Chicken versus Egg”, sung by Gail Kilkelly and her daughter, Maggie McNeil.


In honour of Yamamoto’s achievement, Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has created a new ice cream flavour. Introduced at the Ig Nobel ceremony, “Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist” actually contains only traditionally extracted vanilla, since, as Yamamoto puts it, “it would be difficult for people to accept it in food, given the recent rules of disclosing the origins of ingredients”.


I don’t particularly mind the idea of cow dung vanilla ice cream, but I don’t think I’d want a flake in it.




  1. 1 tharelys March 19, 2008 at 1:34 am

    i think this is an extrodinary idea ( :
    this lady is very intelligent. i mean who would think of that[?]
    this is crazy[!!] i am thinking of doing this for my science fair project … do you have any idea were they might sell this stuff?
    well if you do write back. thank you.

    crazy projects =]]

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