APS News

December 2003 (Volume 12, Number 11)

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

The 2003 Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2003 Ig Nobel Prizes, honoring achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think, were awarded at Harvard University's historic Sanders Theatre in October before 1200 spectators in a ceremony filled with lab coats, opera singers, paper airplanes, ducks, and both the spirit and flesh of Murphy's Law.

The event was produced by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.


The late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy's Law, the basic engineering principle that "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it" (or, in other words: "If anything can go wrong, it will").


Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."


Eleanor Maguire, David Gadian, Ingrid Johnsrude, Catriona Good, John Ashburner, Richard Frackowiak, and Christopher Frith of University College London, for presenting evidence that the brains of London taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of their fellow citizens.


Gian Vittorio Caprara and Claudio Barbaranelli of the University of Rome, and Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, for their discerning report "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities."


Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for his chemical investigation of a bronze statue, in the city of Kanazawa, that fails to attract pigeons.


John Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, New York City, for meticulously collecting data and publishing more than 80 detailed academic reports about specific annoyances and anomalies of daily life, such as:

What percentage of young people wear baseball caps with the peak
facing to the rear rather than to the front;

What percentage of pedestrians wear sport shoes that are white
rather than some other color;

What percentage of swimmers swim laps in the shallow end of a pool
rather than the deep end;

What percentage of automobile drivers almost, but not completely,
come to a stop at one particular stop-sign;

What percentage of commuters carry attache cases;

What percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in
a supermarket's express checkout lane; and

What percentage of students dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts.


Karl Schwoerzler and the nation of Liechtenstein, for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other gatherings.


Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University, for their inevitable report "Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans."


Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for a triple accomplishment: First, for leading an active life even though he has been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People.


C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

December 2003 (Volume 12, Number 11)

Table of Contents

APS News Archives

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Articles in this Issue
APS March Meeting Heads North to Montréal
APS Honors Two Undergrads with Apker Award
California Physics Departments Face More Budget Cuts in an Uncertain Future
AMS, Biomedical Applications Highlight 2003 DNP Meeting
Fusion Tops DOE Facilities List
Entire APS Journal Collection Licensed by Los Alamos "Library Without Walls"
GAO Says Current Missile Defense Plan Is Risky
Homeland Security Programs Need Best Scientific Talent, Says DHS Undersecretary
Meeting Briefs
APS Members Capture Array of Honors
APS-Led Teacher Preparation Program Adds Another Participating School
Chicago Area Fellows Convene
Program Committee Prepares for March Meeting
The Back Page
This Month in Physics History
Inside the Beltway: A Washington Analysis
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science