for National Geographic News
Some fake drugs are better than others, armadillos are assaulting our history, and slime mold is smarter than we think—these and other offbeat scientific triumphs were honored Thursday night at the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.
The prizes celebrate "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."
More than 1,200 people attended a raucous affair at Harvard University, dubbed the "18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony" in honor of this year's theme—redundancy.
William Lipscomb, who had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1976, dispensed prizes to the ten honorees. He himself was the prize in the Win a Date With a Nobel Laureate contest.
The gala is thrown every year by the science/humor journal Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).
(Related: "Poop Vanilla, Endless Soup Among 2007 Ig Nobels" [October 5, 2007].)
Generics and Jerks
Duke University business professor Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, took home the Ig Nobel Prize for medicine.
In one study covered in the book, a group of people took placebos—fake pharmaceuticals—that they were told were expensive. Another group took the same pills but was told the drugs were inexpensive.
The "expensive" pills were found to be more effective pain relievers than the "cheap" ones.
The study could have implications for patients given generic, instead of brand-name, medications.
An eight-year-old girl, Miss Sweetie-Poo, chased Ariely from the podium when he delivered an acceptance speech longer than the allotted 60 seconds.
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