Prize brings some prestige

Published 12:46 pm Monday, October 20, 2008

By Staff
I realize that I will probably never win the Nobel Prize for my writing or anything else I may do. Even so, there is hope for me to win the Ig Nobel Prize.
If you've never heard of this particular prize before, don't feel that you are by yourself. Until I stumbled across this information completely by accident, I didn't know the award existed at all. In certain circles, however, this prize is just as coveted as the actual Nobel Prize.
To achieve prize worthiness, a scientist-type person must do something that no one else has done and prove their point in the process. It's kind of like a bet or dare from the best I can tell about the prizewinners.
Although I am not a scientist-type person, I still think this might be a prize I could win. Apparently the definition is pretty loose for a “scientist” among this special group of people.
For your information, this Ig Nobel Prize thing is awarded to winners in several categories. The categories include nutrition, peace, archaeology, biology, medicine, cognitive science, economics, physics, chemistry and literature.
Now some of the studies are ridiculous. First of all, I can't imagine any educational facility, business, corporation or a mother letting these people do a study on some of the subjects the winners used to win their prize. Basically, they are all stupid and I can't think of any great purpose their “discovery” can serve.
Just think about this, some guy went to another guy with a lot of money and said something like “Hey, do you want to give me $125,000 to do a study on whether dog fleas jump higher than cat fleas?” To which the rich man said, “Sure. If you need any more money, you just let me know.”
I'm not kidding. The Biology Ig Nobel Prize was awarded to Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Crhistel Joubert and Michel Frank of some veterinary clinic in Toulouse, France.
The biology prize was presented to the trio of folks for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat. Their study was titled “A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea.”
Man, I can hear everybody now: The world is a much better place today since we know that dogs have more athletic fleas than do cats.
Stupid. And the list gets a little worse. The nutrition prize was awarded to Massimiliana Zampini of the University of Trento in Italy and Charles Spence of the Oxford University in the UK.
For some reason, these guys thought it would be very beneficial to mankind to find out if the crunch of a potato chip made any difference in how much we enjoyed them.
The prize was presented because the duo made a discovery that by electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip made the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is. The title of their study: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips.” I feel so much better about my snacking now that this study is complete.
I can hear ya'll now saying the awards are stupid and that fact is proven because all of the winners were foreigners. Well, hold on partner. Here's one from the United States that is certain to make us all proud.
The medicine prize was awarded to Dan Ariely of Duke University. Yep, an American at an American educational facility. He won the prize because he did a study demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-prized fake medicine.
Another crazy study? A pair of Americans won the physics prize for what I think may be the most stupid study of all.
Dorian Raymer of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Douglas Smith of the University of California kept themselves pretty busy with this study. They won the prize for, hold on now, proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots. Wait now, here's the title of their study: “Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String.”
I think I'll do a study on what agitated the string in the first place. Anybody want to fund that study for me? Give me a call. I want to win a prize.
Lisa Tindell is news editor of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached by email at

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