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Ig Nobel Simulcast is Better Than Ever...

Improbable Research logo.

Presented by the group Improbable Research (logo above), the Ig Nobels honor “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Image courtesy Improbable Research.

. . . But that may just kill CHF’s simulcast party. We are now in our 4th year of inviting local lovers of the annual Ig Nobel ceremony to watch the awards here in Philadelphia, saving them a trip to Boston. Unlike in years past, however, the simulcast feed is now so good – Google is a presenting partner – that anyone can watch it anywhere. Just open YouTube, click on the show and voila!

Personally, though, I love watching the Igs in a crowd. I want to share the laughs. Last night my colleague Ben Gross and I laughed simultaneously [simulcastaneously?–Ed.] a half-dozen times. The combination of slapstick and science that is the Ig Nobel ceremony is just the kind of thing we like.

One of the opening acts this year was a doctor with an accordion and a (Swedish) Nobel laureate singing Tom Lehrer's song "The Elements." What better song for the chemistry theme of this year’s awards? A half hour later, a plus-size soprano walked on stage to sing a recently discovered Tom Lehrer song titled "Aristotle's Elements." Ben and I were laughing as soon as we heard the title. The Wagnerian solo ended in five seconds. “Earth, air, fire, water.” Song over. Laughs resounded through Sanders Hall at Harvard.

The prizes, of course, were lots of fun. The first was the Physiology Prize: "No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria." The Chemistry Prize in this International Year of Chemistry went to a half-dozen Japanese researchers for "determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm." The Medicine Prize recognized research demonstrating "that people make better decisions about some kinds of things – but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate." Who knew Harold Camping and Pat Robertson could share any prize, but they and others who predicted the end of the world shared the Mathematics Prize for "teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations."

Finally, Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, won the 2011 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for "demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank."

If readers in the blogosphere have suggestions for keeping the Ig Nobel simulcast alive as an event please let us know. It may be easy to watch anywhere, but we’d still like to make it a party.

Neil Gussman is Strategic Communications and Media Relations Manager at CHF.

Related:
Ig Nobel Prizes [Improbable Research]
Nobels, Real and Ig [Periodic Tabloid]

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