APS News

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

Ig Nobel The 2000 Ig Nobel Prizes, presented for achievements that "cannot or should not be reproduced," were awarded at Harvard's Sanders Theatre on October 5 before 1,200 spectators, in a ceremony filled with hijinks, paper airplanes, and bubble wrap. The event was produced by the science humor magazine "Annals of Improbable Research" (AIR), and co-sponsored by the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students. The evening also featured numerous tributes to the theme of "Intelligence," including a debate to determine which of the participants is the Smartest Person in the World, and the world premiere of "The Brain Food Opera, which starred Margot Button, Brian Nash, and the Nobel Laureates. William Lipscomb (Chemistry, 1976) was the prize in the annual Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest. Here are the new winners:


David Dunning of Cornell University and Justin Kreuger of the University of Illinois, for their modest report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments."


Jasmuheen (formerly known as Ellen Greve) of Brisbane, Australia, first lady of Breatharianism, for her book "Living on Light," which explains that although some people do eat food, they don't ever really need to.


Richard Wassersug of Dalhousie University, for his first-hand report, "On the Comparative Palatability of Some Dry-Season Tadpoles from Costa Rica."


Andre Geim of the University of Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and Sir Michael Berry of Bristol University, UK, for using magnets to levitate a frog and a sumo wrestler 


Donatella Marazziti, Alessandra Rossi, and Giovanni B. Cassano of the University of Pisa, and Hagop S. Akiskal of the University of California (San Diego), for their discovery that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.


The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, for bringing efficiency and steady growth to the mass-marriage industry, with, according to his reports, a 36-couple wedding in 1960, a 430-couple wedding in 1968, an 1,800-couple wedding in 1975, a 6,000-couple wedding in 1982, a 30,000-couple wedding in 1992, a 360,000-couple wedding in 1995, and a 36,000,000-couple wedding in 1997.


Willibrord Weijmar Schultz, Pek van Andel, and Eduard Mooyaart of Groningen, The Netherlands, and Ida Sabelis of Amsterdam, for their illuminating report, "Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal."

Computer Science

Chris Niswander of Tucson, Arizona, for inventing PawSense, software that detects when a cat is walking across your computer keyboard.


The British Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout "Bang!"

Public Health

Jonathan Wyatt, Gordon McNaughton, and William Tullet of Glasgow, for their alarming report, "The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow."

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette