Friday Follies: The (Ig) Nobel Prizes

By October 7, 2005Friday Follies

Friday FolliesWe spend a lot of time here on the blog saluting lots of innovators and manufacturers. Innovation, after all, lies at the heart of manufacturing. Manufacturing lies at the heart of the economy.

So while the world watches and salutes the Nobel Prize winners as they are announced this week, we turn our gaze to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded every year by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, to celebrate true innovators both unusual and imaginative and to spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. This year’s winners were announced in a ceremony last night. Among those on the stage for the ceremony was Roy Glauber, winner this week of the (real) Nobel Prize in Physics. In Ig Nobel parlance, Glauber has now become a “sweeper”, winning both coveted prizes.

According to the AP story by Mike Kunzelman (with a headline not suitable for a family blog), this year’s categories and winners include:

BIOLOGY: Benjamin Smith of the University of Adelaide in Australia and his team studied and cataloged different scents emitted by more than 100 species of frogs under stress. Some smelled like cashews, while others smelled like licorice, mint or rotting fish.

FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer- Rochow, of International University, Bremen, who won for his paper: “Pressures produced when penguins pooh: Calculations on avian defecation.”(We don’t make this stuff up.)

PHYSICS: Since 1927, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have been tracking a glob of congealed black tar as it drips through a funnel — at a rate of one drop every nine years.

PEACE: Two researchers at Newcastle University in England monitored the brain activity of locusts as they watched clips from the movie “Star Wars.”

CHEMISTRY: An experiment at the University of Minnesota was designed to prove whether people can swim faster or slower in syrup than in water. (As it turns out, average speeds in either liquid is about the same — who knew?)

LITERATURE: To the Nigerians who introduced millions of e-mail users to a “cast of rich characters … each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled.”

MEDICINE: To Greg Miller, for inventing “Neuticles”, prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs. Perhaps his quote was most apt: “Considering my parents thought I was an idiot when I was a kid”, he said, ” this is a great honor”.

How proud they must be, how proud we are for all the winners.

You can view past winners and find a link to the video of the evening’s events by following this link.