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Ig Nobel Winner Confirms Five-Second Rule

By Marie Y. Thibault


The Fourteenth “1st Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony” took place Thursday night in Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. Ten Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded in the subjects of Medicine, Physics, Public Health, Chemistry, Engineering, Literature, Psychology, Economics, Peace, and Biology.

Before the ceremonies, Lawrence Dill, one of a team of people awarded the Biology Ig Nobel Prize, said that although he did not really know what to expect at the ceremonies, he “absolutely” felt honored to receive an Ig Nobel Prize because “it honors fun in science.”

The ceremonies began with “The Traditional Ig Nobel Welcome, Welcome Speech.” This consisted of just the words “Welcome, welcome.”

All Ig Nobel Prizes were given by Nobel Prize Laureates.

In Medicine, Steven Stack of Wayne State University and James Gundlach of Auburn University were recognized for their published report “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.”

Recipients in Physics were Ramesh Balasubramaniam of the University of Ottawa and Michael Turvey of the University of Connecticut and Yale University for their study of how a hula-hoop works.

Jillian Clarke, of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (and then Howard University), won the Public Health Ig Nobel for researching whether the Five- Second Rule is true. During her acceptance speech, Clarke said that she found “floors generally have no bacteria, so if you do drop food on the floor, you can eat it!”

The Chemistry Ig Nobel was given to the Coca-Cola Company of Great Britain for “using advanced technology to convert liquid from the River Thames into Dasani, a transparent form of water, which for precautionary reasons has been made unavailable to consumers,” according to an Ig Nobel press release.

Donald J. Smith and his father, the late Frank J. Smith, of Orlando, FL, patentors of the combover, were recognized in the subject of Engineering. Smith’s winning words included “a combover is not about hair, it’s about heritage.”

The American Nudist Research Library of Kissimmee, FL was recognized in the subject of Literature for “preserving nudist history so that everyone can see it,” according to the press release.

Recipients of the Psychology Ig Nobel Prize were Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University. The award was given for “demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else -- even a man in a gorilla suit,” according to the press release.

The Economics winner was presented as just “The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India,” according to the press release.

Receiving a standing ovation and a serenade to “You’re Just too Good to Be True,” as well as the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, was Daisuke Inoue of Hyogo, Japan. Inoue discovered a new method of teaching people to get along with each other by inventing karaoke.

Biology, the last award presentation of the night, was given to Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Dill of Simon Fraser University, Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Magnus Whalberg of the University of Aarhus, and Hakan Westerberg of Sweden’s National Board of Fisheries. According to the press release, this award was given for “showing that herrings apparently communicate by farting.”

Besides the prizes, there were several of what the ceremony’s program called “distractions.” These included the 24/7 Lectures, in which experts give a 24-second scientific explanation of their subject and then also deliver 7 words which make the subject simple enough for anyone to understand.

24/7 Lectures were presented in the subjects of Heredity, Physics, Evolution, Diet, and Oceanography. Richard Roberts, lecturer on Heredity said that “heredity is a chronic disease that is sexually transmitted,” and that heredity “means blame your parents and not yourself.”

Other presentations for the diet-themed ceremonies included The Atkins Diet Opera and Diet vs. Diet, an hour-long scientific study on various diets.

The ceremonies ended with “The Traditional Ig Nobel Goodbye, Goodbye Speech,” which consisted of just the words “Goodbye, goodbye.”

Also, Marc Abrahams, producer and director of the Ig Nobels, gave his customary farewell: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize tonight -- and especially if you did -- better luck next year.”

The last scheduled event listed in the ceremony’s bill was “Disappearance of the Audience.”

Free public lectures by the 2004 Ig Nobel Winners will be given at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 2nd, in building 34-101 at MIT. The Ig Informal Lectures will be limited to five minutes each.