THE IG-NOBEL PRIZE 2002
The Ig Nobel Prizes
2002, announced Thursday, are awarded annually at Harvard
University as a spoof of the Nobel ceremony.
Now in theiur 12th year, the awards recognize achievements
that "cannot or should not be reproduced."
They are given to people who have done remarkably goofy things
-- some of them admirable, some perhaps otherwise.
These the 10 awards of this year.
Belly Button Lint. The award went to Karl Kruszelnicki,
a University of Sydney researcher who wrote the paper on bellybutton
lint. Kruszelnicki studied bellybutton lint samples sent to
him by 5,000 people. He concluded the lint is a combination
of clothing fibers and skin cells that are led to the navel,
via body hair, "as all roads lead to Rome." "Your
typical generator of bellybutton lint or fluff is a slightly
overweight, middle-aged male with a hairy abdomen," Kruszelnicki
concluded. He also reports that people who switch from a top-loading
washing machine to a front-loading model notice a "dramatic
drop in the production of BBL." He theorizes that the
gentler washing mechanism in front-loaders makes clothing
fibers less likely to come loose and migrate to the bellybutton.
Medicine: scrotal asymmetry in art. A 1976
scholarly article on "Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in
Ancient Sculpture." published on Nature by Chris McManus,
a psychology professor from University College London, took
top honors for analyzing the asymmetrical positioning and
size of gonads on antique nude statues in Italian museums.
After reviewing 107 sculptures, he concluded that ancient
artists correctly made the right testicle hang higher than
the left, but they incorrectly assumed the lower testicle
was larger. In reality, research shows that a man's right
testicle is usually larger, he says.
Physics (of Beer). The physics prize went to a University
of Munich scientist who showed that the Law of Exponential
Decay can be used to predict how long beer foam will last.
Literature. Vicki Silvers, along with colleague David
Kreiner from Central Missouri State University, received the
Ig Nobel Literature Prize for discovering that students who
buy used college textbooks don't score as well on tests if
the book's previous owner highlighted the wrong passages.
Biology ? (Arousing Ostriches). British scientists
were honored for research that found that ostriches become
more amorous with each other when a human is around. In fact,
ostriches eventually start putting the moves on humans. Their
paper is called "Courtship Behavior of Ostriches Toward
Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain."
Bow Lingual is a Japanese device that measures the
tone of a dog's bark and relays his mood. The device is on
the market in Japan, and an English version, called Bow-Lingual,
should be ready in about a year.
Economics. In economics, the executives and auditors
at Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen and a host of other companies
were commended by the Ig Nobel committee "for adapting
the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the
Other 2002 Ig Nobel winners include a pair of scientists
from India who devised a formula for estimating the total
surface area of elephants, and a Spaniard who invented a washing
machine for dogs and cat
The prizes are awarded in a ceremony at Harvard, by actual
Nobel laureates. Winners traveled from Japan, Australia, Britain,
Germany, Missouri and Illinois for the award gala, which features
real Nobel laureates singing opera and handing out awards
while boisterous audience members throw paper airplanes onto
Winners are selected from thousands of nominations by a secret
committee. If a recipient feels insulted by the award, it's
The Igs are organized by the science humor magazine Annals
of Improbable Research (AIR), and co-sponsored by: the Harvard
Computer Society; the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association;
the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.
A book is now available with the best of Improbable Research.
SEE SOME OF THE BEST PAST
Best of Annals of Improbable Research
Marc, Marc Abrahams (Editor)
"Science is too human, too much fun, and too important
not to laugh at it." The Annals of Improbable
Research (and its predecessor, the Journal of Irreproducible
Results) has been making fun of science and scientists