The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded last night, and Steve Nadis of the science journal Nature was there to blog about it. Here's his report on some of the most dubious achievements in science:
7:55 p.m. At last, the first 2008 Ig Nobel Prize is handed out, recognizing the field of nutrition. The award goes to a pair of researchers who showed that manipulating the sound made by eating Pringles crisps can fool people into thinking a stale crisp is perfectly fresh.
8:21 p.m. Dan Ariely of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, accepts the Medicine Prize for research showing that expensive fake medicine works better than cheap fake medicine. Which makes a lot of sense, in a warped way. Twelve years ago, Ariely vowed "to be on this stage". Now that he's reached "this peak", he says, he's not sure where to go next — thereby summing up the dilemma of many an Ig Nobel prizewinner.
8:30 p.m. Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, tells aspiring young male scientists exactly what they've always wanted to hear: "Research scientists can learn a lot from lap dancers." Jordan knows what he's talking about, as the co-author of a paper exploring how a lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings — work deemed good enough to earn him a share of this year's Economics Prize. One of his co-authors, Geoffrey Miller, dashes the hopes of some enthusiasts by saying he's not taking on any more research assistants in his lab.
Other winners include the findings that Coke explodes sperms, dog fleas jump farther than cat fleas, and the mathematical proof that hair or a ball of string will inevitably tangle itself in knots.