The Ig Nobel Awards would be the highlight of the Boston scientific social season – if there were such a thing. For 20 years, the editors of the Annals of Improbable Research
– live on stage, and now via webcast– have honored scientists whose work makes people laugh, then makes them think.
This year’s “Twentieth 1st Annual Ig Nobel Prize” ceremony, takes place Thursday, September 30, as always, at Sanders Theater in Harvard’s gothic Memorial Hall. To describe the sold-out event as a peer-reviewed combination of Laugh In, Monty Python and FiresignTheater would be a cliché. And no one under the age of 45 would get it. Zach Galifianakis and Chelsea Handler with Ph.Ds? Not exactly. Just think wry, smart, hilarious.
But don’t trust the editors of NNB. See for yourself during a live webcast. Or check out the Improbable journal or website, where MC Marc Abrahams keeps it coming all year. Below, Abrahams
– taking a break from a Harvard Square meeting with Ig diplomats– offers a preview of this year’s ceremony. A highlight — a mini-opera about the bacteria on a woman’s tooth.
Check out the website for clips of past events, including The Best of Miss Sweetie Poo," a little girl who arrives at the podium when speakers go over their time limit to repreatedly annouce “Please stop. I’m bored.”
Here’s a sample of some of the 2009 winners.
MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
Finally, Abrahams describes the 24/7 lectures. Not what you might think.