Ig Nobel talk

On Wednesday, I went to a very special event: an Ig Nobel talk. For those of you not in the know, the Ig Nobel Prize is like the Nobel Prize, but for things that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”.

The talk was held at University of Copenhagen‘s Festsalen, a huge hall right in the middle of the City. The first speaker was Marc Abrahams, none other than the founder of the Ig Nobel himself. He spoke about the history of the Ig Nobel and his favourite cases. One standout example was a research called “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage”. When accepting his award, the late Francis Fesmire dressed up for the occasion. He wore a lab coat with rubber gloves, and he gave a salute with his index finger in the air. As he had sadly passed away recently, Marc asked the audience to salute Francis by pointing our index fingers into the air.

Marc also talked about the recent winners of the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize, including:

  • Ig Nobel Prize in Archeology, where the winners parboiled a dead shrew and swallowed it without chewing, and then carefully examined the excrement in order to see which bones would dissolve inside the stomach,
  • Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, where the winners assessed the effect of listening to opera, on mice which have had heart transplant operations,
  • and my favourite, the Ig Nobel Prize in Probability, where the winners discovered two things: that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and that once a cow stands up, one cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.

We were treated to talks by the winners of the first two Ig Nobel Prizes I mentioned. The speakers were Brian Crandall and Masanori Niimi, respectively. There was also a talk by a 2003 winner of the Ig Nobel in Biology, Kees Moeliker, who discovered the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. He also talked about the disappearance of the pubic lice from the modern society.

On top of all the excellent talks by the founder and winners of the Ig Nobel, we also had a guest speaker. During the talk two days previously (the first show in Århus), Marc was showing some of the Ig Nobel-worthy research, when one audience member yelled “that’s my research!”. So the following day (the second show in Århus), that researcher gave a brief talk of his work. As luck would have it, he has a colleague who is now at the University of Copenhagen. So he gave a talk in Copenhagen. The research was on the use of coconuts as a model for blunt-object skull damage. They had switched to coconuts after spending two Master projects refining a simulation program, and realised they could work a lot quicker with a physical model.

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the event. There are some photos on Facebook if you’re interested.

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