Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A rollicking end to the conference with Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes and the Annals of Improbable Research (which, as I recall, used to be hosted alongside lots of very serious research on IngentaConnect!). Marc focusses on achievements that make people *laugh* - but then make them *think*. He and his team choose ten Ig Nobel Prize winners every year, from around 8,000 nominations. "It's not easy to win one of these prizes, and in most cases, if you win, we give you the opportunity to decline this 'honor' ... most people choose to accept."

The Ig Nobel Experience
Ig Nobel Prize certificates are signed by 'real' Nobel prize winners, and are accompanied by a specially-designed award that reflects the annual theme. The annual awards ceremonies are packed - 1,100 people (bigger than even this year's monster UKSG!) - and the awards are presented by a raft of Nobel prize winners. (Winner's speeches are chaired by a feisty 8-year-old girl who repeats "Please stop. I'm bored." at ramblers.)

Some Ig Nobel winners
  • Cows who have names give more milk than cows who are nameless
  • Whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle (the Peace Prize!)
  • The directors of four Icelandic banks (economic prize)
  • Creation of diamonds from tequila (chemistry prize)
  • Does knuckle-cracking lead to arthritis? for 60 years of left-hand-only knuckle-cracking (medicine)
  • Analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over (physics)
  • The bra that converts to a pair of facemasks in an emergency
Marc demonstrates the journal's old distribution method (prior to online hosting) by chucking a bunch of hard copies into the audience. Not quite as fought over as a ball at a baseball game, but pretty popular nonetheless.

(I have to run away now so hope that I am not about to miss something very funny!)


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