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18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

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Staff writer | Saturday October 4, 2008 2:00AM ET
Ig Nobel 2008The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes, honouring achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think, were awarded at Harvard University’s historic Sanders Theatre.

There were 1200 spectators in a ceremony filled with redundancy, sword-swallowing, opera singers and paper airplanes. Around the world, thousands watched via live webcast. This was the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

Ig Nobel 2008This year’s winners come from four continents. The Ig Nobel Prizes were handed to the winners by genuine Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb (Chemistry 1976). Frank Wilczek (Physics 2004) was represented on stage in the form a dummy; Wilczek’s daughter Mira assisted the dummy in congratulating the Ig Nobel winners. Professor Lipscomb (89) was the prize in the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest, while Benoit Mandelbrot (84) was the prize in a frenzied Win-a-Date-with-Benoit-Mandelbrot Contest.

The event was produced by the science humour magazine "Annals of Improbable Research", and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students, and the Harvard Computer Society.

Ig Nobel 2008Each new winner was permitted a maximum of sixty seconds to deliver an acceptance speech. The time limit was enforced by a cute-but-implacable eight-year-old girl. Several former winners were present. These included: Don Featherstone (creator of the plastic pink flamingo); Kees Moeliker (who reported the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck); and Francis Fesmire (the first doctor to cure intractable hiccups by applying digital rectal massage).

Here are some brilliant scientific works that deserved the greatest and funniest scientific award. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, won Nutrition Prize for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

Ig Nobel 2008The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland are proud winner of Peace Prize for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity. Physics Prize went to Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

Chemistry Prize went to Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

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