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Ig Nobel Winners Bring Research To MIT at First Ig Nobel Lectures

By Sagara Wickramasekara
STAFF REPORTER

For the first time in the history of the Ig Nobel Awards, the a second set of presentations followed the traditional evening ceremonies. Winners and speakers came to MIT Saturday afternoon to present research which inspired awards.

The talk featured six Ig Nobel award winners, Emily Rosa, and the legendary Troy Hurtubise of Project Grizzly with yet another new discovery. The lectures were even more informative than the awards themselves but at the same time managed to remain just about humorous and witty as their nocturnal counterpart.

The Ig award winners expanded on their research in speeches of roughly 20 minutes each, longer than they are allowed to talk at the late-night Harvard ceremony. The physics of dunking a biscuit proved to be an interesting and in-depth field as Dr. Len Fisher explained his research into the optimal dunking method to avoid lost chunks of biscuit. Dr. Arid Vatle’s philosophical puzzling on receiving urine samples in bottles of hard liquor from a quiet old man also clearly entertained the audience.

The afternoon’s major highlight was Troy Hurtubise’s unveiling of a newly invented armor material, the Hurtzy formula, that knocked the socks off of most of the crowd. The material is 80 percent lighter and 50 times as strong as steel, with the flexibility of a spider web. It seemed to be a major innovation in the field of Materials Science. “I don’t know why it works,” admitted Hurtubise, “It just does.”

He proceeded to demonstrate how 3/8 Level 35 body armor, the usual armor of a peace officer and the best that can be purchased by civilians, shattered when shot by a bullet from a high powered Winchester Magnum at a range of 50 ft. The bullet went through the traditional armor and into the ground, while a suit with his new material was able to not only stop the bullet cold but also to prevent it from shattering. “A direct hit [from a landmine] wouldn’t penetrate it,” said Hurtubise. The potential exists to replace everything from wood products used in construction to body armor the inventor said.

Emily Rosa, a 12-year-old girl from Colorado who wrote a research paper debunking therapeutic touch theory at age nine, delivered a heartfelt talk about how fundamentalist christians have taken over Boards of Education in her hometown and elsewhere. She brought an editorial from a 16 year-old-praising the Kansas evolution decision to show how misinformed students are becoming scientifically. She also highlighted some of the common arguments used against evolution, including accusations that champions of evolution misuse the scientific method. Her example article claimed, for instance, that “a million years ago, the Earth’s own magnetic field would have torn the planet apart.” The idea goes like this: since the Earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing, it would have been extremely strong about a million years ago. This does not take into account the reversals and fluctuations of the field. A student Rosa knew asked if humans and dinosaurs lived together, was told no, but not given more information. That boy still thinks dinosaurs and humans could have lived together, due to the school board’s ignorance, she said.

All of the lectures were terrific, and there was more interactivity in the MIT Ig Nobel event than that at Harvard. Though the audience was much smaller, they were more receptive to the deeper principles of science that were highlighted. Volunteers got to reenact the Seedy Opera of Richard Seed’s cloning quest, eat habaneros, and scratch and sniff Hyuk-Ho Kwon’s Peppermint scented suit.

Descriptions of the event and a transcript of the Seedy Opera are available at The Annals of Improbable Research website, <http://www.improbable.com.>