October 4, 1999
Those nutty professors at Harvard are out with the Ig Nobel Prizes.
by Jeanne Beach Eigner
Get it? "Ignoble." Ig-noble . . . Ig Nobel.
Anyway, the annual Ig Nobel Prizes are given
for achievements that "cannot or
should not be reproduced."
Coming on the same day that the Swedish Academy
recognized German novelist
Guenter Grass with a Nobel for literature and weeks before similar honors are to
be announced for real advances in economics and the basic sciences, the Ig
Nobels recognize more questionable contributions.
"England has always had a reputation of really
treasuring its eccentrics, and
this is where it's finally paying off," said Harvard professor Marc Abrahams,
editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and master of
Bristol University researcher Len Fisher
won the Ig Nobel for physics for his
development of the proper technique for dunking a biscuit without making a
gloppy mess at the bottom of a cup of tea or coffee.
His fellow countrymen at the British Standards
Institution won for literature
for their six-page specification on the proper way to make a cup of tea.
The evening's other winners included: Dr.
Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, who
painstakingly determined which kinds of containers patients choose when
submitting urine samples; Hyuk-Ho Kwon of Seoul, who developed a self- perfuming
business suit; and Steve Penfold of York University in Toronto for his doctoral
thesis on the sociology of Canadian doughnut shops.
Our personal favorite -- The Ig Nobel for
Peace, which went to Chari Fourie
and Michelle Wong of Johannesburg, South Africa, for their car burglar alarm,
which consists of a detection circuit and flame thrower.
On the same scale of international importance,
news from Liverpool that Spice
Girl Melanie Chisholm, long-rumored a lesbian, picked the day of her first
performance of her solo world tour last week to make the stunning announcement .
. . "I am straight."
"It is true there is no man in my life at
the moment. But there is no woman
in my life either," she added.
We believe you.
"I do not like women in that way."
Right. Got it.
"I only like women as friends."
Whatever you say.