The Ig Nobel Prizes are presented to people whose accomplishments “cannot or should not be reproduced.” The entire ceremony takes a humorous and somewhat strange look into the world of science. Ten prizes are awarded to individuals who have done impressively ridiculous and weird things such as demonstrating that, biochemically, romantic love is indistinguishable from obsessive-compulsive disorder or creating the self-perfuming business suit. Although many of the ideas and discoveries of the recipients are fairly useless, that’s just the way these mad scientists like it. The awards are presented to the year’s winners by somewhat bemused Nobel laureates. Presenters this year include Sheldon Glashow, Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts, Robert Wilson, and many others.
To go along with this year’s theme of “Complexity,” the gala ceremony will feature “The Wedding Complex,” a farcical mini-opera about scientists planning a wedding—scientifically, of course—and culminating in a real, 60-second wedding that will join Will Stefanov and Lisa Danielson, two Arizona State University geologists, in holy matrimony. The actual wedding will only complicate the Ig Nobel ceremony, thereby reinforcing the complexity theme.
The Ig Nobel prizes are co-sponsored by a number of Harvard groups. The official sponsor is the scientist-run science humor magazine, the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Co-sponsors include the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.
If you can’t make it to the Igs, the Ig Informal Lectures will be held at MIT in room 26-100 on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m., free of charge. David Jones from the journal Nature will speak and the 2001 Ig Nobel prize winners will attempt to describe their work, the reasoning behind it and why they weren’t wasting their time.