Ig Nobel Inspires Zany Fun

Amidst a shower of paper airplanes, a man dressed in a navy lamé suit with a matching top hat honored a group of distinguished scientists for their research relating to the fertility cycle of lap dancers, the moral consideration of plants, and the spontaneous knotting of string.

Last night in Sanders Theatre, the unusual met with the academic at the “Eighteenth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.” The ceremony—hosted by the scientific humor magazine “Annals of Improbable Research”—bestowed awards in 10 different categories of original research, from nutrition to archaeology. In past years, researchers have been awarded Ig Nobels for the iconic pink yard flamingo and for calculating the exact odds Mikhail Gorbachev is the anti-Christ.

This year, the event continued its tradition of zany humor.

The ceremony opened with an introduction by past winner Dan Meyer, who promptly swallowed a sword onstage. Meyer won his Ig Nobel for studying sword swallowing and its effects.

Later, a parade of “Ignitaries” entered the theater, and a number of student delegations were recognized by standing and spinning three times.

Throughout the event, attendees sent a deluge of paper airplanes from the balcony and loudly cheered each time a presenter mentioned the night’s theme: “redundancy.”

The night also included a three-part opera entitled “Redundancy, Again,” as well as various “Scientific Demonstrations” and other humorous skits.

Marc Abrahams, the event’s lamé donning emcee, mingled with a host of others—including Nobel Prize Winners William Lipscomb and Benoit Mandelbrot—onstage. At one point, two lucky audience members won dates with the octogenarian Nobel laureates.

One of the award recipients, Brent Jordan—who previously worked as bouncer at a gentlemen’s club in New Mexico—said he was excited to be a part of this year’s event.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Any kind of attention you get always helps.”

In conjunction with Geoffrey Miller and Joshua Tybur, Jordan discovered that the hourly tip earnings of lap dancers rose about 40 percent when they reached their peak fertility.

Literature winner David Sims also said he was “delighted” to learn that he would receive a prize this year.

Sims was awarded for his study on conflict, entitled “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.” A follower of the Ig Nobel Prizes, Sims said he believed the awards were “a lovely idea. Laughter is part of how we open our minds up.”

Amelia H. Lin ’11, a physics concentrator from Cabot House, said she enjoyed the ceremony but left slightly disappointed.

“I wish I’d gotten a date with Lipscomb,” she said.

Awards were also conferred for research concerning how we experience the crispiness of potato chips, the spermicidal potency of soft drinks, and the ill-effects of armadillos on archeological dig sites.