Penguin Poop, Smelly Frogs Among 2005 Ig Nobel Winners

Adrianne Appel
for National Geographic News
October 7, 2005

Coat tails, Nobel laureates, and ceremonial speeches marked the 15th annual Ig Nobel science awards ceremony held last night at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

But lest there be any confusion, not much else about the wacky Nobel Prize spoof resembles the real thing—except the science, which, believe it or not, is genuine.

The Ig Nobels ceremony pays homage to seemingly inane research projects, like testing the smells of 131 different types of frogs and investigating whether humans swim faster in water or syrup.

"These achievements speak for themselves," said Marc Abrahams, creator of the Ig Nobels and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, the science humor magazine that coordinates the prizes.

"The point [of the awards] is to expose people to things they might not come across," he said.

The annual gala was cosponsored by two Harvard-Radcliffe groups, the Science Fiction Association and the Society of Physics Students.

Wacky Winners

Claire Rind and Peter Simmons of Newcastle University in England nabbed the 2005 Ig Nobel Peace prize for their work electronically monitoring the brain cells of locusts as the insects watched selected scenes from Star Wars.

"The reason I did the research was curiosity. I had to know," Rind said in jest. Like the other recipients, she was allotted just 60 seconds in which to make her acceptance speech.

On a serious note, her research studies the way that locusts avoid predators. She hopes the information will lead to new tools that will help cars avoid collisions.

The winners of the Ig Nobel Fluid Dynamics prize—hailing from universities in Finland, Germany, and Hungary—won for calculating the pressure that builds up inside a penguin's bowels before it defecates.

But none of the honored penguin researchers were able to attend the ceremony because the U.S. denied them visas.

Continued on Next Page >>


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