The Ig Nobel Prizes
Marc Abrahams
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Buy *The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annals of Improbable Research* online

The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annals of Improbable Research
Marc Abrahams
Plume
Paperback
240 pages
August 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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We’ve all heard of the Nobel Prizes for science, medicine, research… But there are actual scientists and researchers out there using actual dollars (often our tax dollars) to do some pretty silly and often downright stupid studies, and this book serves to reward them for their, well, “ignoble” efforts.

The Journal of American Medical Association calls the Ig Nobel Prize the “world’s most (un)coveted award,” and you can surely see why when you read this hilarious yet somehow slightly disturbing collection, put together by editor and co-founder of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and its sister website. Marc Abrahams serves up a dish of scientific insanity that includes the following intriguing and one hundred percent real studies:

  • South Carolina statistics freak Robert W. Faid awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in mathematics for his calculation of the exact odds that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist, resulting in a book, “Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come.” The exact odds, by the way, are 710,609,175,188,282,000 to 1.
  • Andre Geim and Sir Michael Berry awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in physics for their comprehensive study of using magnets to levitate a frog. In fact, you can even visit their website to see other levitations on video, including a drop of water and a cricket.
  • Lithuanian Viliumas Malinauskas nails the Ig Nobel Prize official citation for creating a lovely amusement park known as “Stalin World.” Get your tickets now, folks, for this paradise that combines “the charms of Disneyland with the worst of the Soviet Gulag prison camp.” I know where I’m going after the World Series!
  • The Ig Nobel Health Prize is awarded to two Indian colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore for their profound medical study that nose picking is common among adolescents. This study, which any parent could have confirmed with a Polaroid camera, was actually inspired by an earlier American study. Wow, is the brilliance blinding you yet?
  • And my favorite – The Ig Nobel Prize in mathematics awarded to the Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, which mathematically determined the number of Alabama citizens who were going to hell. I’ll just leave it at that.
The above are just a sampling of the idiotic, but utterly factual, research being done in the name of modern science. The Ig Nobel Prizes will have you laughing out loud even as you wonder just how dumb human beings can actually be, even those with a Ph.D. attached to their names. The awards are real, too, and some of the researchers actually attend the ceremony on the Harvard University Campus. But, as you may have guessed, most who win turn down the award, thinking it offensive. Figure that one out and you, too, can be a genius.

Through the author’s magazine and website, people can submit their own Ig Nobel findings, and thus we can hope for a second addition of stupid science stories soon. But in the meantime, you can read about the brilliant accomplishments year-by-year in the back of this book, and marvel at the innovative, if not dubious, progress being made by men and women in white coats.


© 2004 by Marie D. Jones for curledup.com.

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