The paper airplanes rained down as usual. The cluster of authentic Nobel laureates sat in their usual spots on the stage of Harvard University's Sanders Theater. The traditional mini-opera had cloning as its subject.

What could the occasion be but the awards ceremony for the 1999 Ig Nobel prizes? This year's event, sponsored by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, recognized some pieces of research that may have actual, if so far unproven, redeeming scientific or social value.

"Two hundred years, and we finally have a British winner at the Boston tea party."

-- Len Fisher

Take the work that won the biology prize. The spiceless chili pepper bred by Paul Bosland of the Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University deserves more than oxymoronic sniggers. According to Bosland, who, like all but two of the winners, paid his way to Cambridge to accept the prize,...

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