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The Ig Nobel Prizes Paperback – 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Plume (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452285739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452285736
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.4 x 18.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,197,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Hardcover
This book brings together two areas of human endeavor that don't normally go together: science and humor. The Ig Nobel Awards (actually held every year at Harvard University) honor those achievements which "cannot or should not be reproduced."
Did you know that elevator music may help prevent the common cold? Companies like Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, Waste Management and WorldCom shared an award for adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world. A man from Lithuania created an amusement park called Stalin World. To save money, the British Royal Navy has barred trainees at its top gunnery school from firing live shells and ordered them to shout "bang." It has been determined that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. A college professor from Pennsylvania fed prozac to clams (at the cellular level, clams and humans show remarkable nervous system similarities), resulting in a whole lot of reproducing going on. A man from France is the only winner of two Ig Nobels, for demonstrating that water has a memory, and that the information can be transmitted over the phone and the Internet.
Then there are the "classics," like the scientific investigation of why toast often falls on the buttered side; an Australian man who patented the wheel, and the Australian Patent Office who granted it; a man from Arizona who invented software that detcts when a cat is walking across your keyboard; the Southern Baptist Church of Alabama for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to hell if they don't repent; the sociology of Canadian donut shops, and the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9c14d1e0) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c2dccfc) out of 5 stars Science can be funny Sept. 26 2003
By Paul Lappen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book brings together two areas of human endeavor that don't normally go together: science and humor. The Ig Nobel Awards (actually held every year at Harvard University) honor those achievements which "cannot or should not be reproduced."
Did you know that elevator music may help prevent the common cold? Companies like Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, Waste Management and WorldCom shared an award for adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world. A man from Lithuania created an amusement park called Stalin World. To save money, the British Royal Navy has barred trainees at its top gunnery school from firing live shells and ordered them to shout "bang." It has been determined that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. A college professor from Pennsylvania fed prozac to clams (at the cellular level, clams and humans show remarkable nervous system similarities), resulting in a whole lot of reproducing going on. A man from France is the only winner of two Ig Nobels, for demonstrating that water has a memory, and that the information can be transmitted over the phone and the Internet.
Then there are the "classics," like the scientific investigation of why toast often falls on the buttered side; an Australian man who patented the wheel, and the Australian Patent Office who granted it; a man from Arizona who invented software that detcts when a cat is walking across your keyboard; the Southern Baptist Church of Alabama for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to hell if they don't repent; the sociology of Canadian donut shops, and the optimal way to dunk a biscuit. Last but not least, a solution has been found to the age-old problem of how to quickly start a barbecue. It can be done in less than four seconds with charcoal - and liquid oxygen.
This book is hilarious. It's humor of a slightly more highbrow variety, designed to make people laugh, then think. It's highly recommended for everyone, even those who think that they hate science.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c2dcd8c) out of 5 stars The wise wizards of wacky but sometimes wonderful ideas Dec 4 2005
By Theodore A. Rushton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Back at the height of the Dot-Com boom, just before George Bush became president, billions of dollars were spent to attract viewers to specific web sites.

Since everyone was encouraged to stampede to specific sites, Larry and Sergey decidede to do just the opposite; they invented a web site to make it easier for people to look elsewhere. Thus Google was born.

It's what this book is all about: People who think different. Granted, Google isn't mentioned. Instead, it's a fun romp through the delightful imaginations of people who didn't come close to inventing Google, or much of anything else that might be of use to someone, somewhere, sometime for some unimaginable reason.

Like Google, Ig Noble Prizes are based on a simple criteria; they must make people THINK (that used to be the one-word slogan of IBM). Unlike Google, it must also make people laugh. In other words, Ig Noble honors apparently impractical new ideas on the basis that curiosity, originality and investigation are truly the basis of the human spirit.

Consider, for example, the virtually spiceless NuMex Primavera jalapeno chile pepper, developed by Professor Paul Bosland at the Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. New Mexico is famous for its Hatch chiles, which are flaming hot; so a "cool chile" may strike some as tasteless. Not true; the Primavera has lots of taste, just none of the usual hot spice. The goal is to gradually introduce people to chiles until they become addicted (it's a health food, after all) and everafter eat lots of New Mexico chiles.

This "wacky" idea may improve livelihoods for thousands of New Mexicans in the agricultural business, which is one of the goals of a land grant state college.

But what of the study showing the more radio stations broadcast country music, the greater the white suicide rate? The original study listed Nashville, Tenn., with the highest white suicide rate. It prompted ongoing studies about suicide, including a 2002 report, ". . . opera fans are 2.37 times more accepting of suicide because of dishonour than nonfans." There is a sneakily serious side to the Ig Noble awards.

My favourite, though, is the scientific study of the 'Five Second Rule' about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor. Sixteen-year-old Jillian Clarke did the research using environmental scanning electron microscopy to examine floor tiles, cookies and gummy bears. She came up with the perfect answer: It depends.

As the youngest recipient, she was the center of attention at Harvard when, "For courageously, meticulously, and scientifically playing with food, Jillian Clarke was awarded the 2004 Ig Noble Public Health Prize."

Anyone who cannot understand the fuss over Clarke n eed not buy this book; it's way above their understanding, intelligence and sense of humour. For the rest of us, it's a delightful reminder of the endless vistas of imagination, curiosity and originality. Abrahams has again come up with a gem to tickle the imagination of the curious everywhere.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c344240) out of 5 stars The Intelligence Of Single-Nostril Breathing Nov. 12 2006
By Robert I. Hedges - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded annually to scholars in extremely diverse and unusual fields. This book is a compendium of some of the best examples of extreme scholarship that you are likely to ever encounter. In this book you will find out how to rent the entire country of Liechtenstein, you will be totally unsurprised that politicians are extremely simple humans, and you will learn the cause and effect relationship of country music on suicide.

Many even stranger pieces of research are likewise discussed from a discussion of poultry aerodynamics in "Chicken Plucking and Tornado Wind Speed," to brain efficiency manipulation in "The Intelligence of Single-Nostril Breathing." Without doubt, though, my absolutely favorite piece of scholarship begins on page 212, and is a piece originally published as "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," which originally appeared in "Social Text" (Spring/Summer 1996.) The author, Professor Alan Sokol, believes that academics use enormously complex language to describe the simplest of things, and as such decided to write a paper that was completely and utterly incoherent, that meant nothing, but that was cloaked in obscure jargon. Of course, the editors of "Social Text" didn't know this and found it brilliant and insightful. The joke was on them and they ran it and became the academic laughingstocks they so richly deserved to be. The book excerpts the article, which I have read in full elsewhere.

(I highly recommend that you do the same.) Readers of bigheaded nonsense will adore this work, a random excerpt of which follows: "Lacan's 'topologie du sujet' has been applied fruitfully to cinema criticism and to the psychoanalysis of AIDS. In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound...."

Utterly brilliant, and highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c32b5b8) out of 5 stars Silly Science (& Some Serious Stuff) April 27 2005
By Kent Ponder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Virtually all of the topics treated are a hoot to read, though this sometimes owes more to the comedic skill of the writers than the to the nature of each subject itself.

Case in point: Because of the tall coconut tree in our backyard in Kahuku, Hawaii, the first topic I read was the study of the physics of falling coconuts, finding it humorously presented while still of serious importance. Most people, not living near coconut trees, and even some natives in the tropics, seem not to take falling coconuts seriously, but one fell from our tree, rolled down one of the long leaves, carrying it far enough from the tree to leave an 8" diameter hole in the roof of a sturdy gazebo, which could just as easily have been our neighbor's shed (or head).

To me, one of the more interesting accounts was of Dr. Cecil Jacobsen, a noted fertility researcher with whom I attended church for years in northern Virginia, who had decided to use his own sperm to impregnate many dozens of women, while telling them the semen was from other anonymous donors. The IgNobel Prize given to Dr. Jacobsen may not have seemed humorous to Cecil or his unwitting sperm recipients.

You'll find a treasure trove of wacky and fascinating matters wittily presented in this collection, and you'll probably find yourself reading it aloud to your friends and watching them crack up (or maybe just watching their jaws drop). Some of the material is appropriate for all ages. (My 10-year-old grandson loved the study of Nosepicking Among Adolescents.)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c9743b4) out of 5 stars Science can be funny April 5 2007
By Paul Lappen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is another collection of what can only be described as very unique scientific research. The Ig Nobel Awards are handed out every October during an awards show at Harvard University. Presented by real Nobel Prize winners, they show just how far some people will go for knowledge.

Here are some titles of winning papers, some of appeared in real scientific journals: "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide," "Compliance With the Item Limit of the Food Supermarket Express Checkout Lane: An Informal Look," "Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans," "Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Sculpture," "Patient Preference for Waxed or Unwaxed Dental Floss," and "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed."

Other winners include a man from Ontario who developed and personally tested a suit that is impervious to grizzly bears; the inventor of karaoke; the entire nation of Liechtenstein, which can be rented for conventions, weddings and other gatherings; a pair of Japanese researchers who invented a computer-based dog-to-human language translation device; the inventors of tamagotchi; a man who investigated why shower curtains billow inwards, and the inventors of Spam and Beano.

The only "requirement" for anyone to win an Ig Nobel award is that the research makes a person laugh, then think. This hilarious book certainly accomplishes that. It can be picked up and read starting at any point, and read anywhere, and shows that science can be funny.

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