The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Wendel Sloan

'Ig Nobel Prizes' good for laughs


February 25, 2018

My book-of-the-month summary for February is “The Ig Nobel Prizes” by Marc Abrahams (Dutton, 2002, 240 pages).

The official criteria for winning is for “achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced.”

The unofficial criteria is the “achievement must first make people laugh.”

The awards are handed out at Harvard each year by Nobel Prize winners, with most recipients actually showing up.

Some winners:

• The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama produced an estimate of how many Alabamians, as well as people from other places, are going to hell.

The estimates were a practical tool on where to concentrate their evangelical efforts and where not to bother.

They devised a secret mathematical formula estimating what percentage of each religious group will go to hell: X percent of Southern Baptists, Y percent of Episcopalians, Z percent of Catholics, etc. The estimates were based on experience and instinct.

It was determined that 46.1 percent of Alabamians will go to hell if they don’t have a born-again experience.

Figures for other states were not released.

• George and Charlotte Blonsky invented a device to speed the process of women in labor by strapping them to a circular table rotating at high speed.

When operated at its maximum spin, the machine would produce seven times the force of gravity (jet fighter pilots typically black out at five Gs).

In supporting the award, one pregnant woman wrote, “After nine months I’m really bored and tired of waiting. If that machine were available, I’d use it.”

• Peter Barss, a Canadian doctor, won an Ig for a medical report he wrote after arriving in New Guinea: “Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts.”

Barss concluded, “It seems unwise to locate dwellings near coconut palms, and children should not be allowed to play under coconut trees with mature nuts. … An infant’s head lying on the ground would receive a much greater force than that received by the head of a standing adult.”

Other reports written by Barss included “Injuries Caused by Pigs in Papua New Guinea,” “Grass-Skirt Burns in Papua New Guinea” and “Inhalation Hazards of Tropical Pea-Shooters.”

• Three doctors received an Ig for their report: “The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow.”

They concluded, “All of the toilets were very old. We advise the older porcelain (ones) be treated with a certain degree of caution. ”

• Former Vice President Dan Quayle won an Ig in education for demonstrating the need for science education.

Quayle’s public statements included: “Teachers are the only profession that teach our children.” “I stand by all the misstatements I’ve made.” “Low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.”

• Other winning topics included:

“Calculating the optional way to dunk a biscuit;” “People who think they have foot odor do, and those who don’t, don’t;” “Courtship behavior of ostriches towards humans under farming conditions in Britain;”

“Whether earthquakes are caused by catfish wrangling their tails;” “Chicken plucking as measure of tornado wind speed;” “Peaceful explosions of atomic bombs;” and

“Increasing sex drive in clams by feeding them Prozac.” They don’t live as long but die “happy as a clam.”

Contact Wendel Sloan at: [email protected]


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