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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Friday, October 5, 2007

Ig Noblesse oblige


Nobel laureates (seated, from left) William Lipscomb,
Robert Laughlin, Craig Mello, Roy Glauber and Dudley
Herschbach taste Ig Nobel-prize winning ice cream
flavored by vanillin derived from cow dung.

(Kees Moeliker / Annals of Improbable Research)

You had to be there.

At last night's Ig Nobel prize ceremony, paper airplanes, pointless chicken references and acceptance speech poems sailed through Harvard's Sanders Theatre. The mood was part Mardi Gras, part Marx Brothers as the Annals of Improbable Research induced real Nobel laureates to play along with real scientists whose published work first made people laugh, and then think, journal editor and master of ceremonies Marc Abrahams said.

There was sword-swallowing, natch, from the Tennessee winner Dan Meyer, who studied sword swallowing's side effects. There was ice cream from Toscanini's made, so the real laureates were told, using Japanese Ig Nobel winner Mayu Yamamoto's formula for deriving vanillin from cow dung. Craig Mello, last year's Nobel winner in medicine, was the first to dip his spoon into his dish as the crowd chanted "Eat it!"

There was 2005 physics Nobelist Roy Glauber, wearing a Chinese straw hat and wielding a twig broom, sweeping paper airplanes off the crowded stage as he has done for 10 years of Ig Nobel celebrations.

And there were chicken and/or egg costumes made out of black garbage bags that Mello, Glauber, and their good-natured peers Dudley Herschbach (chemistry 1986), William Lipscomb (chemistry 1976) and Robert Laughlin (physics 1998) climbed into and burst through on cue.

You had to be there.

But there's another chance to enjoy the merriment: At 1 p.m. tomorrow, the Ig Nobel winners will make presentations in MIT Building 10, Room 250. Check out their prizes and real references.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 11:46 AM
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