Date: Mon Oct 18 1993 15:02:00 To: All Subj: Ig Nobel - A CELEBRATING THE IG NOBELEST OF T

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Date: Mon Oct 18 1993 15:02:00 From: Sheppard Gordon To: All Subj: Ig Nobel - A CELEBRATING THE IG NOBELEST OF THEM ALL The Scientific Method: There's Madness in It 10/11/93 Newsday HE COULD MAKE a radio out of a coconut, but the Professor from Gilligan's Island could never figure out how to get home to pick up the Nobel Prize he was destined to win. Still, he's more famous than most Nobel Prize winners. Proof of that came one night last week when Russell Johnson, the actor who played the Professor, shared a stage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with two actual Nobel laureates, along with a bunch of live chickens and someone who looked a lot like Albert Einstein. There's a dirty little secret among scientists - some of them have a sense of humor. It all spills out at MIT once a year as some of America's scientific elite, and some goofballs, take part in the Ig Nobel Prizes, timed to coincide with the announcements of those other awards for science, literature and peace. In a tradition dating all the way back to 1991, the Igs, a production of MIT and a science humor publication called The Journal of Irreproducible Results, are awarded to individuals "whose achievements cannot or should not be reproduced." Previous winners have included Michael Milken for economics and sperm bank patriarch Dr. Cecil Jacobson for biology. Before the start of this year's "Third First Annual Ig Nobel Ceremony," a loudspeaker announcement begged, "Ridiculing science is reprehensible. Please will you all go home." Obviously relishing an evening of politically incorrect silliness, the audience of some 1,200 scientists and MIT students, many wearing white lab coats or Halloween costumes, stayed put. They were soon rewarded with the opening procession of "Dignitaries and Ignitaries," including honored delegations such as the Non-Extremists for Moderate Change from Finland and the Intergalactic House of Fruitcakes. Onstage was a group of "Authority Figures," including Albert Einstein (played by Alan Lightman, author of the best-seller "Einstein's Dreams," in a fright wig) and two actual Nobel Prize winners from Harvard, William Lipscomb (chemistry, 1976) and Sheldon Glashow (physics, 1979), who, rumor had it, was warned by his wife not to do this again. Three other Nobel laureates sent taped remarks. The crowd greeted the real Nobelists warmly, but went berserk at the introduction of Johnson, now holding the title Professor Emeritus, Gilligan's Island. Johnson, who looks more like the Skipper now, stood smiling during a long, partly standing ovation. Some audience members cried, "We love you." Following the ceremonial tossing out of the first Harvard joke (not worth repeating), and the dash onto the stage of a groupie who had won the first Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate contest and hugged the stately Lipscomb, the presentations began. The Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology went to Harvard's John Mack and Temple's David Jacobs for their actual conclusion that "people who believe they were kidnaped by aliens from outer space probably were." Accepting on their behalf, Kevin Steiling, who in real life is an assistant attorney general of Massachusetts, reminded the audience that "kidnaping is a federal offense." The Ig Nobel Peace Prize went to Pepsi of the Phillipines, for announcing the wrong winning number in a contest, "thereby inciting and uniting eight-hundred thousand riotously expectant winners and bringing many warring factions together for the first time in their nation's history." The prize for literature was awarded to the 976 co-authors of a medical research paper in last month's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine entitled, "An International Randomized Trial Comparing Four Thrombolytic Strategies for Acute Myocardial Infarction." It was accepted by Dr. Marcia Angell, executive editor of the prestigious journal. An Ig in Consumer Engineering went to Ron Popeil, inventor of the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler. An alleged consumer of every Popeil product was escorted off the stage after pointing at Nobelists Glashow and Lipscomb and screaming, "I have an inside the egg egg scrambler! You see these guys? They don't know how that works! They have no idea!" The awards were interrupted periodically for Heisenberg Certainty Lectures (named for the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, one of the foundations of 20th Century physics). The certainty was that each lecture, delivered by the Authority Figures on subjects of their choice, would not last more than 30 seconds - strictly enforced by a soccer-style referee with whistle. In his half-minute lecture, MIT economist Paul Krugman informed the audience that Ross Perot is wrong: "That great sucking sound isn't coming from Mexico. It's coming from outer space. Space aliens are stealing American jobs." Russell Johnson used his 30 seconds to end a 25-year-old mystery: The Professor was able to make radios from coconuts but not get the castaways off the island because he had been educated at MIT. Eleven Igs were presented in all. Jay Schiffman, inventor of Autovision, a projection device that makes it possible to drive and watch TV at the same time, sent a note refusing his Visionary Technology award. Protesting the award were members of MADWWT - Mothers Against Driving While Watching Television. The Chemistry Ig went to the folks who created the method for putting perfumes in magazine ads. Robert Faid won the Mathematics Ig for his computation of the exact odds (more than 8.6 trillion to 1), that Mikhail Gorbachev is the antichrist - the Ig committee itself announced the odds for computer tycoon Bill Gates at a takeable 8 to 5. The evening's final winners, Drs. James F. Nolan, Thomas J. Stillwell and John P. Sands, Jr., wrote a paper for The Journal of Emergency Medicine entitled "Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped Penis." Nolan, who actually showed up from Pennsylvania, remarked, "I was here to save my generation from penile injury." The ceremony concluded with a group of Nolan's supposed patients, most wearing sweatpants, singing about their travails to the tune of "We Are the World." At a post-Ig reception, Johnson stuck up for those who aren't real scientists but play one on TV. Nobel laureates may be more important, he said, "but we still have our place." Nobel winner Lipscomb said, "Science should be fun." and Marc Abrahams, the editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results and Ig master of ceremonies, summed up the evening: "It went very quickly. No one died, there were very few injuries and we had no kidnapings. We were very pleased. Why are you badgering me this way?" Art: AP Photo - Russell Johnson, the Professor of `Gilligan's Island^ breaks up on being served a tray of Spam at the Ig Nobel festivities ==================================================================== Date: Mon Oct 18 1993 15:02:00 From: Sheppard Gordon To: All Subj: Ig Nobel - B Misappliance of science - the ignoble prizes AWARDS Dotty antics in Boston may prove that some scientists really are mad 10/17/93 THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH AS THE Nobel Prize winners were solemnly named last week, a much less reverent ceremony of a similar kind was taking place in Boston. These were the Ig Nobel prize givings, originating from Alfred Nobel's fictitious brother Ig, and awarded annually by the Journal of Irreproducible Results, a sort of scientific equivalent of Private Eye, which gives awards "for achievements which cannot - and should not - be reproduced". Since the validity of a scientific experiment depends on whether it can be repeated, and an experiment which cannot be is worthless, this gives some idea of the science that is being honoured by the followers of Ig Nobel. Some of it is intended as a spoof, while some (occasionally) is bizarre but true. "You have to read them and make up your own mind," says the journal's editor, Dr Mark Abrahams, a computer scientist. The most amusing prizes are those awarded to solemn people who talk nonsense. This year's Mathematics Prize went to an expert on "Biblical numerics" who has "proved" that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist. "I am absolutely serious about this," says retired nuclear engineer Dr Robert Faid, of Greenville, South Carolina, "and I am surprised that people would make a joke of it. I have shown from the history of the 'kings' (general secretaries) in the Soviet Union and from the Book of Revelations that there is an 860,609,175,188, 282,100 to 1 chance that Gorbachev is the Antichrist who will return to power by overthrowing Yeltsin and who will then overwhelm the West by violence." Dr Faid's prediction is based mainly on highly complicated arithmetic involving the spelling of Gorbachev's name in several languages and combinations of the Number of the Beast, 666, with its opposite 888, the Number of Jesus. Few ordinary people will be able to follow it, but Dr Faid, who has a considerable following, is convinced of his case. The Ig Nobel Prize for Literature was equally diverting. The articles in most serious scientific journals are usually signed by two, three, or perhaps half a dozen people. A double-digit number of authors is rare. But on September 2 this year the New England Journal of Medicine published an article on heart disease that was signed by no fewer than 972 authors. An editor of this journal was persuaded to come to the Ig Nobel ceremony and admit that each of these authors was responsible, statistically, for exactly two words. A book of vast pomposity by two university professors - John Mack of Harvard Medical School and David Jacobs of Temple University - won the Prize for Psychology. It claimed that "millions" of people were being kidnapped by aliens from outer space. "Their reasoning is most ingenious," said Dr Abrahams. "As I understand it, they claim that people are being snatched from their beds, taken through solid walls and smuggled aboard UFO ships. The entire kidnapping process is therefore invisible. Since it is invisible it cannot be disproved. And since it cannot be disproved it must be true." The highlight of the ceremony, which is regarded as a general excuse for serious scientists to let off steam, was the birth of a new liberation movement. But it was not humans or even animals the audience was being urged to protect. It was protons, the cores of atoms, which are going to be smashed in huge numbers when the #7 billion Texas Super-Colliding Atom-Smashing Machine starts operations. A noisy crowd appeared in the gallery brandishing a banner. These were members of the Proton Liberation Organisation, the new PLO. As their leader declaimed: "Billions of subatomic particles will be threatened every picosecond {every trillionth of a second}. Stop the carnage!" Several onlookers affirmed that this was one of the best JIR ceremonies since they began in 1955.


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