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Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

Improbable Researchers Gather for 1997 Nobel Prize Ceremony

A new crop of Ig Nobel Prizewinners was honored on October 9, 1997, at the Seventh First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, held before a paper-airplane-throwing sellout crowd of 1200 in Harvard University's Sanders Theatre. The event was produced by the science humor magazine "Annals of Improbable Research" (AIR), and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard Computer Society and by the new book "The Best of Annals of Improbable Research."

The prizes were presented to the winners by several genuine Nobel Laureates, including Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts and Robert Wilson. A worldwide audience watched via a live Internet telecast. (The event was also recorded, and will be broadcast on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation Science Friday" program on the day after American Thanksgiving.)

The Nobel Laureates were active throughout the evening. Lipscomb was given away in a Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest. Plaster casts of the left feet of Lipscomb and Herschbach, and fellow Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert were auctioned off for the benefit of the Cambridge public schools science programs. All the laureates joined soprano Margot Button and Baritone Benjamin Sears in the world premiere of a new mini-opera ("Il Kaboom Grosso") about the Big Bang.

BIOLOGY: T. Yagyu and his colleagues from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, from Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and from Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic, for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavors of gum.

ENTOMOLOGY: Mark Hostetler of the University of Florida, for his scholarly book, "That Gunk on Your Car," which identifies the insect splats that appear on automobile windows.

ASTRONOMY: Richard Hoagland of New Jersey, for identifying artificial features on the moon and on Mars, including a human face on Mars and ten-mile- high buildings on the far side of the moon.

COMMUNICATIONS: Sanford Wallace, president of Cyber Promotions of Philadelphia - neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night have stayed this self-appointed courier from delivering electronic junk mail to all the world.

PHYSICS: John Bockris of Texas A&M University for his wide-ranging achievements in cold fusion, in the transmutation of base elements into gold, and in the electrochemical incineration of domestic rubbish. [Note: Bockris is a chemist by profession.]

LITERATURE: Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg of Israel, and Michael Drosnin of the United States, for their hairsplitting statistical discovery that the bible contains a secret, hidden code. [Drosnin's popular book, "The Bible Code," was published by Simon & Schuster.]

MEDICINE: Carl J. Charnetski and Francis X. Brennan, Jr. of Wilkes University, and James F. Harrison of Muzak Ltd. in Seattle, Washington, for their discovery that listening to elevator Muzak stimulates immunoblobulin A (IgA) production, and thus may help prevent the common cold.

ECONOMICS: Akihiro Yokoi of Wiz Company in Chiba, Japan, and Aki Maita of Bandai Company in Tokyo, the father and mother of Tamagotchi, for diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets.

PEACE: Harold Hillman of the University of Surrey, England, for his lovingly rendered and ultimately peaceful report "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods."

METEOROLOGY: Bernard Vonnegut of the State University of Albany, for his revealing report, "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed."

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin