It was a typical awards ceremony: Distinguished scholars made emphatic speeches, large medals were hung around honorees' necks and a woman in red kept running in with a policeman, shouting, "That's him! That man is the father of my child! Stop him!"
Well, maybe the first annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony held at MIT was not so typical. The Ig Nobel prizes honoring individuals for irreproducible results in humanities and the sciences were made possible by the generosity of the late Ignatius ("Ig") Nobel, "the mythical inventor of soda pop and co-inventor of Excelsior," and possible relative of Alfred.
The ceremony, held at 7 p.m. yesterday at the MIT Museum, was hosted by Marc Abrahams, editor of The Journal Of Irreproducible Results, which has been described as a Mad Magazine for scientists.
Five real Nobel laureates were involved with the production, including Harvard's own Dudley R. Herschbach, Baird professor of science, and Sheldon L. Glashow, Higgins professor of physics.
The awards ceremony was a slightly less serious version of the actual Nobel Prize awards ceremony.
Glashow, who appeared on stage with Herschbach and the other laureates, wanted the world to know that he was NOT wearing a Red Sox baseball cap. Hershbach, meanwhile, attempted to hide his identity with a fake nose and glasses combination.
Ballerinas, Badges and Burps
The night began with the entrance of a pink-clad ballerina scattering confetti. Various Ig Nobel dignitaries followed, holding placards proclaiming, "Save the Rat," "Recovering Mathematician," and "The 2nd Point of Light." The dignitaries paid homage to the King and Queen of Swedish Meatballs, and watched the Sacred Torch Bearer enter and disappear.
Following the Welcome, Welcome speech ("Welcome! Welcome!"), the Salient Dignitaries and Nobel laureates were introduced to the audience. Tokens were thrown during the Token Speech, music was played during the Keynote Speech and burps were uttered during the Traditional Soda Pop Ceremony.
Rube Goldberg and Marilyn Vos Savant were inducted into the Posthumous Board of Governors, the latter as an honorary member, as she is alive.
Then the fun began. As the winners were announced, each was presented with a bulky medallion that emitted shrill screams when turned.
The Physics Prize went to Thomas Kyle, discoverer of the heaviest element in the universe, Administratium. The Pedestrian Technology Prize was awarded to Paul Defanti for the invention of the Buckybonnet, "a geodesic fashion structure" worn to "protect heads and preserve composure."
Kyle "declined the award with great pleasure," while Defanti took the opportunity to market his complicated blue monstrosity.
The Education Prize was awarded to Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, "for demonstrating, better than anyone else, the need for science education."
A person who claimed to be Quayle accepted his award. However, the acceptant did not quite fit the standard profile of the vice president. The suspect was pre-teen and female.
"He" regretted his wasted college years, and enthusiastically vowed to learn math and science pronto.
Other recipients were unable to attend. Robert Clark Graham, winner of the Biology Award for his Germinal Choice sperm bank, which only accepts donations from Nobel laureates and Olympic athletes, was conspicuously absent. Dr. Strangelove accepted for him. Economics Prize honoree Michael Milken had a 15 to 20 year previous engagement, so Tammy F. Baker accepted in his stead.
However, no one was willing to accept the Peace Prize for Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb and SDI supporter. The band played the theme from "Star Wars" instead.
Perhaps the most jubilant award winner was Alan Kligerman, who received the Medicine Prize for his invention of the anti-gas potion Beano. He talked enthusiastically of his serious product, accompanied by by low cries of "Bean-o! Bean-o!"
Participants came out of the ceremony ready for the upcoming Nobel Prize announcements. As the disembodied voice of absent Nobel laureate Professor Henry Kendall repeated after each presentation, "Congratulations. Your work is an inspiration to all of us."