CAMBRIDGE, MA. Last night at Harvard University, some 1200 spectators popped bubble wrap, hurled paper airplanes, and happily celebrated the sillier side of science at the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. The event—a send–up of the real Nobel Prize awards, presented by a US-based science humor magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)—rewards researchers whose efforts "cannot or should not be reproduced." Tongue firmly in cheek, AIR editor Marc Abrahams selects the Ig winners with an eye toward recognizing research that straddles the border between laughable and laudable.

Take the collapsing toilets of Glasgow, for example. This year's Ig Nobel prize in public health was awarded to a team of Scottish emergency room physicians for their report chronicling the injuries people sustained when aging porcelain toilets cracked under pressure. "Most people see the humorous side of our study," says lead investigator Jonathan Wyatt of the Royal Cornwall Hospital in...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!