Later this fall, a precious few ASCB members will be booking flights to Stockholm. For the rest of us, take a seat with your laptop tonight to watch live as another batch of Nobelists—the Ig Nobelists—step into the bright lights. This is one show you might be glad to miss as an honoree.
Since 1991 these awards, organized by the science humor publication Annals of Improbable Research, have honored scientists for absurd or inadvertently funny findings. Last year’s awards paid tribute to such major discoveries as why people's hair turned green in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden (the Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize), how chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees from seeing photographs of their rear ends (the Ig Nobel Biology Prize), and what are the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail (Ig Nobel Physics Prize).
At tonight’s ceremony at Harvard’s Sanders Theater, 10 Ig Nobels will be awarded by genuine Nobel Laureates who have been to Sweden. (Andre Geim is the only scientist who has won one of each, a regular Nobel and an Ig Nobel, both in physics). The opening acts will feature an electric-harp, floods of paper airplanes, a series of 24-second lectures plus a seven-word summary, and a premiere of an opera about the “The Blonsky Device” (a real machine that uses centrifugal force to promote childbirth). And to ensure none of the speeches run over, an 8-year-old is tasked with complaining, “Please stop, I’m bored,” until the speaker leaves the podium.