A study into cat communications, another examing how air quality in cinemas reflects what's on screen and a third investigating whether humans grew beards to protect themselves from punches were among the winners at the annual Ig Nobel Awards. Presented in an online ceremony last week, the prizes are awarded for "achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think". Others among the winners include a study using genetics to analyse wads of chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries (the Ecology Prize), a series of experiments looking at why pedestrians sometimes collide with other pedestrians (Kinetics Prize), and an examination of whether it's safer to transport rhinos upside down (Transportation Prize). We recommend not attempting the latter.

Germany Angela Merkel marzipan

Marzipan cookies depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel made by a German confectioner ahead of the 26th September elections, are displayed in Weilbach, Germany, on 14th September. PICTURE: Reuters/Annkathrin Weis

After 16 era-defining years at the helm of Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing down, and a traditional marzipan manufacturer is hoping to sweeten her departure with a tasty treat. "It's a souvenir for fans, or non-fans, of Angela Merkel who is standing down and who has completed her service. And so we hope that the one or other person will put her up somewhere at home," said Thomas Zuber, manager of Odenwaelder Marzipan in the state of Bavaria in south-western Germany. The family-run marzipan confectioner, which has been in operation for 40 years, and will be producing some 500 pieces depicting Merkel. "We have made them so that they last for two years, so people can extend Merkel's time for another two years," said Zuber. The company has designed a handmade Merkel mould which is then filled with marzipan. The family business came up with its Merkel souvenir idea a couple of months ago and is working to complete the line with its eight-person team. The first batch will take the team two days to complete and comprises eight stages of preparation. 

A competition in Spain isn't about the taste or appealing look of farmer's produce - it's about finding the ugliest. Held annually in Tudela in the country's north, the "ugliest tomato" competition attracts entries from dozens of farmers with entrants submitting their worst looking Marmande variety tomato. The breed, known as the "Ugly tomato of Tudela" are said to look like they do due to the process of pollination which involves bees. The contest winner is awarded an Iberian ham.

- With ANNAKATHRIN WEISS and HAKAN ERDEM in Frankfurt/Reuters; Reuters TV.