Some people believe science is boring, and think scientists have no sense of humor. Not me.
Most people are aware of the brilliance of Einstein's mind, but didja know he was also very witty? After all, he didn't just delve into relativity and declare that E=MC2. He also said,
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty woman is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
Yep, the same imagination and curiosity that leads people to pursue scientific endeavors very often fuels a keen sense of humor, as well. And nothing supports this notion better than the Ig Nobel awards.
|Ig Nobel's official mascot, The Stinker|
Or, I can simply do a quick recap.
These annual awards, whose purpose is to first make people laugh, and then to make them think, are the brainchild of Marc Abraham, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research. Ten awards are presented each year at an irreverent ceremony held at Harvard University's Sanders Hall, and although the tongue-in-cheek event is full of hilarity, satire, and tossed paper airplanes, some of the seemingly trivial research highlighted there can and does lead to important discoveries. For example, the 2006 award in Biology went to scientists who discovered some malaria-causing mosquitoes are just as attracted to limburger cheese as they are to human feet. Yeah, I've known some people whose feet smell like stinky cheese, too, so this study is worthy of a snicker or two, but the study also led to mosquito traps being baited with limburger cheese to help combat malaria.
The essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer. [Jacob Bronowski]
Facts are the air of scientists. Without them, you can never fly. [Linus Pauling]
Without further ado, I present to you (ta-DA!) the 2012 Ig Nobel winners:
PSYCHOLOGY- A team of scientists from the Netherlands and Peru won for their research, entitled Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.
PEACE- This one went to Russian SKN Company for converting old Russian ammunition into nano-diamonds. (WOW! That's even better than turning swords into ploughs!)
ACOUSTICS- Ever been in a meeting or presentation where you wished someone would Just. Stop. Talking? Two Japanese researchers came up with the perfect solution. Their machine, called a Speech Jammer, disrupts a person's speech by enabling him to hear his own time-delayed voice. The speaker is so discombobulated by the effect, He. Just. Shuts. Up.
Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and where it lands, painting a target. [Homer Adkins]
NEUROSCIENCE- A U.S. team showed that if brain researchers used the right statistical tricks, they could measure meaningful brain activity just about anywhere ... even in dead fish.
CHEMISTRY- This award went to a team who discovered why the hair of blondes living in a certain Swedish town turned green.
LITERATURE- Although no one showed up at the ceremony to accept this particular prize, (Gee, I wonder why?) it was awarded to the U.S. Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends (you guessed it!) the preparation of another report about the reports about reports.
You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. [Mark Twain]
PHYSICS- Ever wonder why, when a woman with a ponytail jogs, essentially an up-and-down motion, her ponytail swings from side to side? A team of U.S. and British researchers won a prize for exploring the forces governing the shape and movement in a human ponytail.
Nothing can travel at the speed of light, they say, forgetful of the shadow's speed. [Howard Nemerov]
FLUID DYNAMICS- This award went to a U.S. team who studied the dynamics of sloshing. Specifically, exactly what causes your cup of coffee to slop over when you carry it? (Other than clumsiness, that is.)
ANATOMY- Researchers from the Netherlands and the U.S. pooled resources to discover chimpanzees can identify other chimps from pictures. Not just ANY pictures, mind you, but pictures of their backsides. HUH! I don't know why that should come as such a surprise. Some men are like that, too. I mean ...
The world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle, wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it. [Thomas Carlyle]
MEDICINE- The tenth, and final award, went to French scientists, who came up with a way to reduce the risk of causing an explosion while performing a colonoscopy. Really? I mean, REALLY??? (I always wondered why a hazmat team stood by when I was having those procedures ...)
Marc Abraham ended this year's ceremony just as he has every year ... by saying, If you didn't win an Ig Nobel prize this year--- and especially if you did--- better luck next time.
Wanta hear a little more about these awards? Take it away, Mr. Abraham! (And, yeah, that IS a brassiere he's holding ...)
When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction. [Steven Wright]
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.