Ig Nobels Reward Quirky Research

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Ig Nobel Prize Laureate Dan Meyer swallows a sword for the audience. He won the Medicine Prize last year for investigating the side-effects of swallowing swords.
Biyeun M. Buczyk—The Tech
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Marc Abrahams, the master of ceremonies of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, is hit with paper airplanes as he announces the next Ig Nobel winner.
Biyeun m. bUCZYK—The Tech

Spermicidal cola, archeological armadillos, and lap dancers were the talk of the evening at last night’s Ig Nobels, where a weird ceremony feted the weirdest science of the past year.

Like real Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobels award the most novel discoveries in the field of science and humanities. But the Ig Nobels are, well, decidedly less noble.

Redundancy was the theme of this year’s event, held at Sanders Theater at Harvard University to a sold out, screaming crowd. Cheers erupted whenever the word “redundancy” was mentioned — which was often.

The pre-ceremony program began with a concert by Paul and Storm, followed by remarks by Master of Ceremonies Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research. Next was a parade of the “Indignitaries,” individuals who came as a group dressed in their themed attire. The last group to parade through were members of the Boston Museum of Bad Art with art in hand.

Anna Lysyanskaya, Dany Adams, and William Lipscomb spoke in the “24/7” lecture series: spending 24 seconds giving a technical explanation of their work, followed by a seven word summary in layman’s term (for the sake of redundancy). Lysyanskaya, Professor of Computer Science at Brown University spoke about Cryptography, Adams, biologist at the Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, spoke about armadillo reproduction and finally Lipscomb, 1976 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, spoke about redundancy.

The award show was also interleaved with a three act opera about (what else!) redundancy.

Winners of the dubious Nobel received of a paper certificate and a wooden board with a generic label. Whenever acceptance speeches went over their allotted time, a little girl named “Miss Sweetie Poo,” would run to the microphone and proclaim “Please Stop, I’m Bored.”

By the end of the ceremony, the theatre was filled with paper airplanes that were thrown during two designated times as well as intermittent periods throughout. The ceremony ended with the final act of the Opera and a photo-op of all the winners. The winners of the awards also got to shake the hands of Lipscomb, an actual Nobel Laureate.

With the closing remarks, Abrahams stated, as in tradition, “If you didn’t win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!”

Kees Moeliker, Dan Meyer, Francis Fesmire, and Don Featherstone, all former Ig Nobel Prize recipients were present.

This year’s winners of the award include:

Massimiliano Zampini (University of Trento, Italy) and Charles Spence (Oxford University) for their research titled “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips.” This allowed them to change the crunching sound to make it seem like the chip was crisper than it really was.

The Peace Prize went to The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology for their recognition of dignity for plants. The award was accepted by Urs Thurnherr, a committee member.

Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil) were given the Archeology Prize for their study of how Armadillos can “scramble” up an archeological dig site.

The Biology Prize went to Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and Michel Franc (Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse) for discovering that “fleas on dogs jump higher than fleas on cats.”

Dan Ariely (Duke) took the award in Medicine for showing that “high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.”

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero travelled from Japan to receive the prize in Cognitive Science for showing that “slime molds can solve puzzles.”

Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan took the prize in Economics for showing that “lap dancer’s ovulatory cycle affects tip earnings.”

Dorian Raymer, physics, proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

Deborah Anderson, Joseph Hill, C.Y. Hong’s daughter Wan Hong (chemistry) Conflicting studies on Coca-Cola being a spermicide.

David Sims, Literature, “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.”

The Ig Nobel awards were first given out in 1991 and originally held at MIT. The purpose of the award is to celebrate the “unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people’s interest in science,” according to the nomination form.

At the Ig Informal lectures tomorrow the new laureates will give 5-minute presentations of their award-winning work. The event will take place in 10-250 at 1:00 p,m., and is free and open to the public.