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The Ig Nobel Prizewinners

Announcing: The 1994 Ig Nobel Prizewinners

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Monday, August 14, 2000
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On October 6, the winners of this year's Ig Nobel Prizes were honored, in a fashion, by three Nobel Laureates, 1200 hecklers, the Norwegian Consul, and a rat control scientist at a tumultuous ceremony at MIT. The Prizes honor individuals whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced." Five additional Nobel Laureates (Sidney Altman, David Baltimore, Nicolas Bloembergen, Jerome Friedman, and Philip Sharp) participated in the Ceremony with congratulatory tapes and slides.

This was the fourth annual ceremony. Past winners include Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who won the 1992 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for "his uniquely compelling methods of bringing people together."

The festivities included speeches by three of the new winners -- Dr. Brian Sweeney (Biology), Dr. Robert Lopez (Entomology) and, via tape recording, Dr. Richard Dart (Medicine). Sweeney and Lopez had their Prizes -- cheap gold-painted wax half-brains -- personally handed to them by the Nobel Laureates.

The Nobel Laureates -- Richard Roberts ( Physiology or Medicine, 1993), Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry, 1986), and William Lipscomb (Chemistry, 1976) also each presented a 30-second "Heisenberg Certainty Lecture." Heisenberg Lectures were also presented by: Harvard Chemist Cynthia Friend; the father of artificial intelligence, MIT's Marvin Minsky; astronomer Margaret Geller of Harvard; and neurophysiology pioneer Jerome Lettvin of MIT. Those Heisenberg Certainty lecturers who exceeded the time limit were thrown from the stage by a referee.

The Nobel Laureates also joined with a five-woman dance group to perform a brief ballet number, "The Interpretive Dance of the Electrons," with music from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite."

Following is a list of the new Ig Nobellians:

The 1994 Ig Nobel Prizewinners

BIOLOGY W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Krafte-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their breakthrough study, "The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops," and especially for their numerical analysis of bowel movement frequency. [The study was published in "Military Medicine," vol. 158, August, 1993, pages 346-348.]

PEACE John Hagelin of Maharishi University and The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy, promulgator of peaceful thoughts, for his experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18 percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C. [Details were published in "Interim Report: Results fo the National Demonstration Project To Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Governmental Effectiveness In Washington, D.C., June 7 to July 30, 1993," Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy, Fairfield, Iowa.]

MEDICINE This prize is awarded in two parts. First, to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, valiant victim of a venomous bite from his pet rattlesnake, for his determined use of electroshock therapy -- at his own insistence, automobile sparkplug wires were attached to his lip, and the car engine revved to 3000 rpm for five minutes. Second, to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their well-grounded medical report: "Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation." [The report was published in "Annals of Emergency Medicine," vol. 20, no. 6, June 1991, pp. 659-661.]

ENTOMOLOGY Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear, and carefully observing and analyzing the results. [Dr. Lopez's report was published in "The Journal of the American Veterinary Society," vol. 203, no. 5, Sept. 1, 1993, pp. 606-607.]

PSYCHOLOGY Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, practitioner of the psychology of negative reinforcement, for his thirty-year study of the effects of punishing three million citizens of Singapore whenever they spat, chewed gum, or fed pigeons.

PHYSICS The Japanese Meterological Agency, for its seven-year study of whether earthquakes are caused by catfish wiggling their tails.

LITERATURE L. Ron Hubbard, ardent author of science fiction and founding father of Scientology, for his crackling Good Book, "Dianetics," which is highly profitable to mankind or to a portion thereof.

CHEMISTRY Texas State Senator Bob Glasgow, wise writer of logical legislation, for sponsoring the 1989 drug control law which make it illegal to purchase beakers, flasks, test tubes, or other laboratory glassware without a permit.

ECONOMICS Jan Pablo Davila of Chile, tireless trader of financial futures and former employee of the state-owned Codelco Company, for instructing his computer to "buy" when he meant "sell," and subsequently attempting to recoup his losses by making increasingly unprofitable trades that ultimately lost .5 percent of Chile's gross national product. Davila's relentless achievement inspired his countrymen to coin a new verb: "to davilar," meaning, "to botch things up royally."

MATHEMATICIANS The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, mathematical measurers of morality, for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to Hell if they don't repent.

Full details of the 199 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, including photographs and highlights of the acceptance speeches and 30- second Heisenberg Certainty Lectures, will be presented in December in the first print issue of The Annals of Improbable Research.

Topics in future issues of AIR:

The Taxonomy of Barney * A Natural History of the Articulated Lorry * Effectiveness of Chinese Fortune Cookies * A Review of the Nairobi Telephone Directory * The Aerodynamics of Potato Chips * The Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony * Scientific Gossip * Nobel Thoughts (offbeat interviews with Nobel Laureates) * Elegant Results (reviews of cosmetics ads) * Hot Air (exhalations from our readers) * X-Rays of the Rich and Famous * and then some!

This material appeared in mini-AIR and is reprinted with permission.

The Ig Nobel home page

(c) copyright 1994, The Annals of Improbable Research

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