APS News


Ig Nobel Participants Damage Own Credibility

Marc Abrahams' "Improbable Research" (APS News, March 1995) and numerous (mostly critical) comments on it in the May issue raise the question of credibility of "real" (not Ig) Nobel Prize laureates who regularly (or occasionally) participate in Ig-ceremonies.

We are fortunate to live in a (relatively) free society and the right to openly ridicule anything you wish is, of course, among its fundamental cornerstones. But it is not a free ride. The price for this right is that nothing, not even the genuinely deserved Nobel Prize, makes people fully immune from the possibility of damaging the level of respect they enjoy in the eyes of others.

We all know that many scientific breakthroughs in the past were first met with jeers and scorn. When the freshmen or sophomores make a humorous pantomime on fringe science claims, this can be both funny and nice. But when people blessed with the highest scientific honour on Earth play the Zoo on their, often equally distinguished, colleagues (yes, who will deny that Edward Teller has the same scientific calibre as many other Nobel Prize winners ?), it looks plainly stupid. And as a result, the players look far more ridiculous than the targets of their wit.

Please, Nobel guys, we give you the benefit of doubt, but find another outlet for your unappreciated clown talents!

Alexander A. Berezin,
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin