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Harvard Hosts Fifth Ig Nobels; Parodies Include DNA Poem

By Brett Altschul

The Annals of Improbable Research held the Fifth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University last Friday.

The prizes, humorous parodies of the Nobel Prizes, commemorate research that, according to the magazine, "cannot or should not be reproduced." This year's theme was "DNA, the stuff of life and legend." This was the first year the ceremony was not held at MIT, due to a legal dispute.

The 10 1995 Ig Nobel laureates included, for nutrition, John Martinez, for inventing Luak coffee, made from beans ingested and excreted by the Indonesian luak, or palm civet; for physics, D. M. R. Georget, R. Parker, and A. C. Smith, for studying the effect of water saturation on breakfast cereal compaction; and, for psychology, Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, for teaching pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Monet and those of Picasso.

Each winner received a double-helix trophy, a Barbie lunchbox, a 1954 New York City subway token, and a 1996 "Studmuffins of Science" calendar.

Legal rift takes awards from MIT

For the past four years, the Ig Nobel prizes were awarded at MIT, by the Journal of Irreproducible Results and its successor, the Annals of Improbable Research. However, a legal dispute that arose between the MIT Museum - the publisher of AIR - and its editor, Marc Abrahams, caused the ceremony to be moved from MIT to Harvard.

Abrahams and the MIT Museum produced AIR for a year without a contract between them, but the museum wanted to create another organization to publish the magazine because handling the AIR required too much effort from the museum staff, said Warren A. Seamans, director of the MIT Museum.

Last March, contract negotiations broke down, and Abrahams claimed sole control of AIR. To avoid a lawsuit, MIT abandoned the magazine and the Ig Nobel prizes.

DNA honored with poem, perfume

In addition to the awarding of the Ig Nobel prizes, the ceremony featured five genuine Nobel laureates from Harvard. They presented a poem they wrote, entitled "DNA and Dr. Seuss," about the molecular basis for Green Eggs and Ham.

Several 30-second Heisenberg certainty lectures were presented to the Nobel laureates and other notables, including MIT alumni Tom and Ray Magliozzi of National Public Radio's Car Talk.

In honor of the DNA theme, the ceremony paid special respect to Bijon Fragrances, Inc., who produce the line of DNA Fragrances for men and women. Neither of these scents actually contains deoxyribonucleic acid. They are, however, sold in triple-helix bottles. Everyone in the audience received a free sample of DNA Cologne at the end of the ceremony.