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Celebrating Human Absurdity

Guest Column Scott Malcolmson

Being human. At times it means being absurd, and at times there is nothing so absurd.

The ancient philosopher Cicero said, "There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it." Cicero, were he around today, would surely have added "or some thinker has thunk it, or some inventor has contrived it," especially if he had attended the Eighth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. For this was an affair that celebrated the absurd side of human invention and endeavor.

At times, human absurdity is very comic. Such was the absurdity celebrated at the Ig Nobel Awards. The winners were told that their scientific research were of such a nature that "they cannot or should not ever be reproduced."

In the category of biology, Peter Fong of Gettysburg College was the winner with the publication of his scientific journal article "Induction and Potentiation in Fingernail Clams (Sphaerium striatinum) by Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors." For us laymen, that's contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac. The old adage "happy as a clam" has a whole new meaning. I guess they were depressed about feeling cold and clammy until Mr. Fong came along with his Prozac.

In the category of science education we had Dolores Krieger, Professor Emerita, New York University winning for "demonstrating the merits of therapeutic touch, a method by which nurses manipulate the energy fields of patients by carefully avoiding contact with those patients." By carefully avoiding contact with those patients� correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what HMOs have been doing for years?

In scientific literature we had Dr. Mara Sidoli's article entitled "Farting as a Defense Against Unspeakable Dread." Unspeakable dread, what's that, like being a New England Patriots fan? I pity the poor grad student that had to collect data for Dr. Sidoli. The good doctor certainly puts the "anal" in analytic psychology.

By my favorite winner came from the category of scientific engineering. The winner was Troy Hurtubise of North Bay, Ontario for developing and personally testing an armored suit that is impervious to grizzly bears. Apparently this suit of armor has been a life-long quest for Mr. Hurtubise since he was attacked by a grizzly bear at the age of 19. He has gone into bankruptcy refining his suit of armor while risking life and limb in its testing. That testing included his brothers pummeling him with baseball bats, pick axes, and large logs hoisted onto trees, secured by ropes, and then let go so as to strike him in the head. The testing was finished by by his father ramming him with a pickup truck (with a mattress secured to its front end, for safety purposes of course) while Mr. Hurtubise wore his continually refined suit of armor.

But even with this impressive R&D, sales of his suit have been dismal. Perhaps he's targeting the wrong market. He might try� New York City, perhaps? "Asuit of armor for today's urban jungle." An ad campaign is born.

Yes indeed, at times human absurdity can be very comic.

But human absurdity can be very tragic. Events like the death of Scott S. Krueger '01 by alcohol poisoning last year, like the resident graduate tutor who allegedly set fire to a dorm carpet as a prank that got out of control, like a party that advertised "Fiji punch," show us this side of absurdity.

Absurd, tragic behavior indeed.

Perhaps Mr. Hurtubise could re-engineer his grizzly suit so that it would protect humans from ingesting too much alcohol.

Nah, that would never sell. What an absurd idea.

Scott Malcolmson is an employee of the Medical Department.