To you, that cute pink bra with black lace trim might conjure up thoughts of sexy lingerie. To Dr. Elena Bodnar, it represents a possible lifesaver.
Behold the bra-mask, a bra that in an emergency can be turned into a pair of protective face masks.
Bodnar's invention won the Ig Nobel Prize, given by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for achievements that "first make people laugh and then make them think."
"The brilliance of my idea is that it's very simple," said Bodnar of Chicago, who is the director of the nonprofit Trauma Risk Management Research Institute.
To use the bra mask, the wearer unsnaps the brassiere from under her shirt, which breaks it in two. Because each cup has hooks on its side, the strap is wrapped around the head and hooked to the cup, which goes over the mouth. Bodnar said an experienced user can don the mask in mere seconds.
The bra mask could be used during such disasters as fires, terrorist attacks, dust storms or a swine flu outbreak, Bodnar said. Indeed, she first thought up the idea while treating victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster as a medical university graduate in her native Ukraine. Bodnar is pursuing commercialization of the mask. She hopes all women eventually will have one.
What about men? As Bodnar noted in her Oct. 1 acceptance speech at Harvard University, "Isn't it wonderful that women have two breasts, not just one? We can save not only our own lives, but also a man of our choice next to us."