Vanillin -- Mayu Yamamoto, a former researcher at the International Medical Center of Japan, has won this year's Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize for developing a method for extracting vanillin -- an ingredient in vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.

According to an AFP report, Yamamoto, who attended the award ceremony at Harvard University on October 4, said, "At first I thought it was a joke, but I came to the award ceremony hoping my research would become more widely known." Yamamoto says that widespread adoption of her method could help the environment because companies would make greater use of cow dung, which arguably contributes to global warming.

As a bonus prize, Toscanini's Ice Cream in Cambridge, Massachusetts has invented a new flavor -- Yum-A-Moto Vanilla Twist -- to honor Yamamoto, and is offering a free public tasting to its customers on October 5.

The annual Ig Nobel Prizes are meant to honor scientific achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think," according to the founders at science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

Yamamoto is 12th Japanese person to receive an Ig Nobel Prize since the awards were established in 1991. Previous award-winning achievements from Japan include the invention of karaoke, which received the Peace Prize, and the Tamagotchi, which received the Economics Prize.

Check Improbable Research for a list of all the winners.

[Source: Asahi]