Pizza. But can it protect against illness if you're in Italy? PICTURE: Wesual Click/Unsplash

The Ig Nobel Prizes were handed out at what we imagine was a glittering ceremony last week with winning projects including an investigation of whether pizza can protect against death and illness if made and eaten in Italy (the Medicine Prize), a project surrounding the invention of a diaper changing machine (the Engineering Prize), and research looking at why wombats produce cube-shaped poo (the Physics Prize). The 29th version of the annual awards - which are handed out in a range of categories to academics doing improbable research projects which "makes people laugh and then think" - were held at Harvard University with an eight-year-old girl reportedly on hand to enforce the one minute speech limit by stating "Please stop, I'm bored". Other winners include those behind a French project measuring "scrotal temperature asymmetry" in naked and clothed postmen (Anatomy Prize), Japanese academics who worked on an estimation of the the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child (Chemistry Prize), and a joint UK, Saudi Arabian, Singaporean and American project attempting to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.

Dolphins, cats and birds were all tested as to whether they could assist the CIA during in its cold war against the USSR, it has been revealed. The US agency last week released declassified files which showed the agency looked at the possibility of using cats as "audio surveillance vehicles" in an operation called 'Acoustic Kitty', rather mysterious trials to see if dogs could be controlled remotely and looked at training dolphins to sabotage enemy shipping (perhaps not so far-fetched - dolphins are known to have been used by the US Navy in demining operations). They also investigated the use of various types of birds in a bid to see whether they could be used to drop-off listening devices and take photographs while in flight. 

Two people have been arrested so far over the theft of a functioning 18 carat gold toilet which was installed in Blenheim Palace near Oxford in the UK last week. The toilet, which has been valued at between $US5 and $US6 million, was designed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and is called America. Cattelan told The New York Times that the work was "one per cent art for the 99 per cent". The work had been popular with tourists to the palace - a UNESCO World Heritage site - who lined up to take selfies, err, "enthroned".