September 12, 1996
University Gazette


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  Ig Nobel Prizes Set To Embarrass, Enlighten at Sanders in October

The world's top scientists and glitterati will convene here on Thursday, Oct. 3, for the Sixth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

A good-natured spoof of science and the Nobel Prizes, the ceremony honors people whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced." The event is cosponsored by The Annals of Improbable Research (which has been described as "the MAD Magazine of science"), the Harvard Computer Society, Tangents (the Harvard-Radcliffe mathematical bulletin), and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. The ceremony will take place at Sanders Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

Ten Ig Nobel Prizes will be awarded in fields ranging from Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine to Literature, Economics, and Peace. The Prizes will be handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates, including Sheldon Glashow (Physics '79), Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry '86), William Lipscomb (Chemistry '76), Richard Roberts (Physiology or Medicine '93), and others. One laureate will be given away in the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest.

The theme of this year's festivities is "Biodiversity." In addition to the presentation of the prizes, the ceremony will include:

* The world premiere of a mini-opera starring two mezzo-sopranos as cockroaches and the Nobel Laureates as insects;

* An auction of plaster casts of the feet of the Nobel Laureates and of scientist/supermodel Symmetra;

* 30-second Heisenberg Certainty Lectures (the time limit is strictly enforced by a referee) by: Don Featherstone, inventor of the plastic pink flamingo; Karen Hopkin, creator of the "Studmuffins of Science" calendar; Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb; and other distinguished guests;

* A special pre-game mini-concert by jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant and Nobel Laureate Lipscomb

* A two-minute slide show/seminar on "The Taxonomy of Barney";

* A madcap audience of academics, musicians, Morris dancers, thespians, traffic cops, doctors, lawyers, and children clothed in academic gowns, uniforms, and obsolete technology.

The ceremony will be telecast live, worldwide, on the Internet via the MBONE and CUSeeMe. And, for the fourth time, the ceremony will be recorded for later broadcast (the day after Thanksgiving) on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday" program. Every year, the Ig (as it is affectionately known) receives extensive press coverage locally, nationally and internationally from newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV.

Some Ig Nobel achievements are whimsical and wonderful, others perhaps less so. Past winners include Dr. Robert Lopez, who experimentally placed cat ear mites into his own ear (Entomology Prize '94); perfumier Bijan Pakzad, the creator of DNA Cologne (Chemistry Prize '95); and former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates (Peace Prize '92). Tickets for the event are available from the Sanders Theatre box office (496-2222).

For more details about the ceremony, send e-mail to: INFO@IMPROB.COM and/or see


Copyright 1998 President and Fellows of Harvard College