Fun_People Archive
9 Oct
mini-AIR Oct. 96 -- The 1996 Ig Nobel Prizewinners

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed,  9 Oct 96 18:08:40 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: mini-AIR Oct. 96 -- The 1996 Ig Nobel Prizewinners 

From: Marc Abrahams <>

The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
Issue Number 1996-10
October, 1996
ISSN 1076-500X
Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the
A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in
	The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR),
	the journal of inflated research and personalities


1996-10-01	Table of Contents
1996-10-02	mini Housekeeping Note
1996-10-03	Ig Nobel on Science Friday and C-SPAN
1996-10-04	The 1996 Ig Nobel Prizewinners
1996-10-05	Foot Mixup, and Missing Fauna
1996-10-06	Call for Swimsuit Photos
1996-10-06	AIRhead Project 2000
1996-10-07	May We Recommend...
1996-10-08	AIRhead Events
1996-10-09	How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
1996-10-10	How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)
1996-10-11	Our Address (*)
1996-10-12	Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

		Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

1996-10-02	mini Housekeeping Note

AIR is looking for a few good interns to help with library
research, editorial matters, and public and private relations. If
you are in the Cambridge area and would like to help out, please
get in touch us at <> or 617-491-4437.

1996-10-03	Ig Nobel on Science Friday and C-SPAN

3. If you were not one of the fortunate (?) 1200 organisms who
crawled, or wiggled, or walked, or flew into the Ig Nobel Prize
Ceremony on Oct. 3 at Harvard's Sanders Theater, take heart.
Special edited versions will be broadcast on:

   *	National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation / Science
	Friday with Ira Flatow" on Friday, Nov. 29.

   *	The television network C-SPAN, probably in November.
	(C-SPAN plan to broadcast it some time after the American
	Presidential election -- that is, some time after
	November 5. For exact date&time, call the C-SPAN hotline
	202-628-2205 or consult their web site

A full report on the event will be published in the Jan/Feb 1997
issue of The Annals of Improbable Research.
And yes, videotapes of the event will (most likely) be available
fairly soon.

1996-10-04	The 1996 Ig Nobel Prizewinners

Here are the winners of the 1996 Ig Nobel Prizes, presented at the
Sixth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, held at Sanders
Theater, Harvard University on Thursday evening, October 3, 1996.
The Prizes were handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates Dudley
Herschbach, William Lipscomb, and others.

The Prizes honor people whose achievements "cannot or should not
be reproduced."

The event was reluctantly presented by The Annals of Improbable
Research (which has been described as "the MAD Magazine of
science"). This year it was also co-sponsored by the Harvard
Computer Society, Tangents (the Harvard-Radcliffe mathematical
bulletin), and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.

This year's ceremony was embroiled in controversy -- Sir Robert
May, the science advisor to the British government, had asked the
organizers to stop giving Ig Nobel Prizes to scientists, even when
the scientists want to receive them. Nevertheless, this year's Ig
Nobel roster included yet another prizewinner from England.

This year's ceremony also featured the world premiere of "Lament
Del Cockroach," a mini-opera starring mezzo-sopranos Margot
McLaughlin and scientist/Supermodel Symmetra as cockroaches and
the Nobel Laureates as insects eager to mate. At the opera's
conclusion, a meteorite from Mars eradicated the roaches while
three plants sang Handel's  Hallelujah Chorus ("Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!  The roaches are gone!") and Earth's other
life forms danced the macarena.

Here are the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize winners:

BIOLOGY  Anders Baerheim and Hogne Sandvik of the University of
Bergen, Norway, for their tasty and tasteful report, "Effect of
Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetite of Leeches." [The
report was published in "British Medical Journal," vol. 309, Dec
24-31, 1994, p. 1689.] Drs. Baerheim and Sandvik sent a videotaped
acceptance speech, and watched the ceremony live on the Internet.

MEDICINE  James Johnston of R.J. Reynolds, Joseph Taddeo of U.S.
Tobaccco, Andrew Tisch of Lorillard, William Campbell of Philip
Morris, and the late Thomas E. Sandefur, Jr., chairman of Brown
and Williamson Tobacco Co. for their unshakable discovery, as
testified before the US Congress, that nicotine is not addictive.

PHYSICS  Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his
studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that
toast always falls on the buttered side. [The report, "Tumbling
toast, Murphy's Law and the fundamental constants" was published
in "European Journal of Physics," vol.16, no.4, July 18, 1995, p.
172-6.] Professor Matthews sent an audiotaped acceptance speech.

PEACE  Jacques Chirac, President of France, for commemorating the
fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima with atomic bomb tests in the

PUBLIC HEALTH  Ellen Kleist of Nuuk, Greenland and Harald Moi of
Oslo, Norway, for their cautionary medical report "Transmission of
Gonorrhea Through an Inflatable Doll." [The report was published
in "Genitourinary Medicine," vol. 69, no. 4, Aug. 1993, p. 322.]
Dr. Moi traveled from Oslo to Cambridge -- at his own expense --
to accept the Prize. During the trip, Dr. Moi also delivered a
lecture at Harvard Medical School about his achievement.

CHEMISTRY  George Goble of Purdue University, for his blistering,
world record time for igniting a barbeque grill -- three seconds,
using charcoal and liquid oxygen. Professor Goble's colleague Joe
Cychosz traveled to Cambridge to accept the Prize.

BIODIVERSITY  Chonosuke Okamura of the Okamura Fossil Laboratory
in Nagoya, Japan, for discovering the fossils of dinosaurs,
horses, dragons, princesses, and more than 1000 other extinct
"mini-species," each of which is less than 1/100 of an inch in
length. [For details see the series "Reports of the Okamura Fossil
Laboratory," published by the Okamura Fossil Laboratory in Nagoya,
Japan during the 1970s and 1980s.]

LITERATURE  The editors of the journal "Social Text," for eagerly
publishing research that they could not understand, that the
author said was meaningless, and which claimed that reality does
not exist. [The paper was "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a
Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," Alan Sokal,
"Social Text," Spring/Summer 1996, pp. 217-252.]

ECONOMICS  Dr. Robert J. Genco of the University of Buffalo for
his discovery that "financial strain is a risk indicator for
destructive periodontal disease."

ART  Don Featherstone of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, for his
ornamentally evolutionary invention, the plastic pink flamingo.
Mr. Featherstone traveled to Cambridge to accept the Prize.

The ceremony also included an auction of plaster casts of the left
feet of four Nobel Laureates, and several tributes to the concept
of "Biodiversity." Thirteen-year old Kate Eppers, spokesperson for
the Committee for Bacterial Rights, said:

"We live in a diverse society. Our biggest ethnic groups are not
the Asians, the Africans or the Caucasians. Our biggest ethnic
groups are the Bacteria. I used to wash my hands every day. My mom
made me. But then I learned about ethnic cleansing. Every time you
wash your hands, you wipe out billions and billions of Bacteria.
That's not fair. Bacteria have rights, too. So let's be grown-ups
about this. When mom asks you to wash your hands, just say No."

Further details -- including shocking photos -- will be posted in
our web site ( during the coming months.

1996-10-05	Foot Mixup, and Missing Fauna

A grievous mixup has occurred.

Will the man who claimed the foot of Nobel Laureate Richard
Roberts in the Ig Nobel Auction please contact the editors of
AIR.... YOU HAVE THE WRONG FOOT! The real owner of Dr. Roberts's
faux foot is eager to swap extremities with you.

As part of the Ig Nobel Ceremony, we (actually auctioneer Lin
Calista of Cornucopia Auction Sales) auctioned off plaster casts
of the left feet of Nobel Laureates Sheldon Glashow (physics '79),
Dudley Herschbach (chemistry '86), William Lipscomb (chemistry
'76), and Richard Roberts (physiology or medicine '93), and the
foot (we're not sure which one) of scientist/supermodel Symmetra.
All proceeds are being used for the science programs of the
Cambridge Public Schools.

If you purchased one of the feet, please get in touch with us so
that we can list you in our Registry of Owners of Laureate Partial
Facsimiles, and so that we may rectify this embarrassing misstep.

All five winning bidders are invited to attend next year's
ceremony at their own expense, where they can come on stage and
play with their feet.

			*	*	*

Will the persons who (inadvertantly, we're sure) removed the large
plastic cows, penguins and other animals from the stage after the
ceremony please return them. No quesions will be asked; no grudges
will be held; no animal abuse charges will be filed. But please,
we need those poor critters back.

1996-10-06	Call for Swimsuit Photos

This is a call for photos to be included in AIR's ANNUAL SWIMSUIT
ISSUE. Age, sex, physical condition, and area of specialization
are no barriers to entry. Black & white photos are preferred, but
anything will do. Please send your photos to:

	Annals of Improbable Research
	Attn: Swimsuit Issue Editor
	PO Box 380853
	Cambridge MA 02238   USA
Please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, so that we may
favor you with a reply. The photos themselves will not be returned
to you, but neither will they be used for blackmail or related

1996-10-06	AIRhead Project 2000

As announced in mini-AIR 1994-02-03 (June, 1994), we are compiling
a list of everything that has 2000 as part of its name.

ITEM #JEEVES-54 (submitted by multiple investigators)
"English 2000," a British Council initiative to promote the
teaching of British English rather than American English as a
foreign/second language abroad.

ITEM #NEWSWAMP-89223 (submitted by investigators Frances Hannan
and D. Luckett)
"Peddar 2000," a plan to drain the Peddar Dam in Tasmania,
Australia .

ITEM #FRANCAIS-21-990 (submitted by investigator Pete Kaiser)
"Cles 2000," a locksmith in Nice, France.

ITEM #NOCHICKEN-09 (submitted by investigator Tobias Gmelin)
"KSC 2000," a project to lead the Karlsruher Sport-Club major
league soccer team into the next millennium.

1996-10-07	May We Recommend...

Research reports that merit a trip to the library.
(These items are additional to the many which appear in AIR

"On journeys to the Moon by balloon," Walter Simon, "Classical
Quantum Gravitation," vol. 10, 1993, pp. 177-181. (Thanks to Tom
Roberts and Lisa Herschbach for bringing this to our attention.)
The abstract reads in part:
	"We give inequalities for the equation of state of a
	static perfect fluid in Newton's theory and in an
	asymptotically flat spacetime in relativity which ensure
	finite extension of the fluid region.  In the relativistic
	case, our condition is closely related to one which is
	known to imply, for given surface potential, uniqueness of
	the solution (when its existence is assumed).  Our results
	cast doubts on reported early journeys to the Moon."

1996-10-08	AIRhead Events

==>	Updates of this schedule are available from
	Want to host an event? E-mail to

Special presentation at the NAIR meeting at Princeton, NJ.
For info: Brenda Bretz ( 717-245-1316

C-SPAN						Date To Be Announced
Broadcast of an edited version of the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize
Ceremony. C-SPAN plan to broadcast it some time after the American
Presidential election -- that is, some time after November 5. For
exact date & time, call the C-SPAN hotline 202-628-2205 or consult
their web site

Broadcast of an edited version of the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize
Check your local NPR station for exact time. The broadcast will
also be posted on the SciFri home page.

American Association for the Advancement Of Science will host
and/or tolerate a special evening presentation on "Improbable
Research and the Ig Nobel Prizes."

Special presentation, about improbable research and the Ig Nobel
Prizes, at the Harvard Faculty Club.

1996-10-09	How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) is a magnificent bi-
monthly print journal.
(What you have been reading in mini-AIR are little bits of
overflow material that we couldn't fit into the magazine.)
Here's how to subscribe to the real thing!

Rates (in US dollars)
USA			1 year - $23		2 years - $39
Canada/Mexico		1 year - $27		2 years - $45
Overseas		1 year - $40		2 years - $70

	[Copies of back issues are each $8 in the US,
	$11 in Canada/Mexico, $16 overseas.]

Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or
Visa, Mastercard or Discover cards) to:
	The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
	PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
	617-491-4437 FAX: 617-661-0927

1996-10-10	How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. It is NOT a tiny
version of AIR -- rather, it is overflow from the real magazine.
To subscribe, send a brief E-mail message to:
The body of your message should contain ONLY the words
(You may substitute your own name for that of Madame Curie.)
To stop subscribing, send the following message: SIGNOFF MINI-AIR
To obtain a list of back issues, send this message: INDEX MINI-AIR
To retrieve a particular back issue, send a message specifying
which issue you want. For example, to retrieve the issue dated
950706, send this message: GET MINI-AIR MINI-AIR.950706

1996-10-11	Our Address (*)

The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

GENERAL INFO (supplied automatically):


We read everything we receive, but are unable to answer all of it.
If you need a reply, please include your Internet address and/or a
SASE in all printed correspondence.

 From time to time AIRhead news reports and commentary appear on
ABC Television's "World News Now" and Public Radio's "Living on

	 a weekly column appears in
	* AOL: Special extracts are available. Goto keyword "IMPROB"

1996-10-12	Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever
appropriate. The only limitations are:
A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR.
B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.

(c) copyright 1996, The Annals of Improbable Research

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams (
CO-CONSPIRATORS: Gary Dryfoos, Craig Haggart, Deb Kreuze, Nicki
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon
Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

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