Most of the time, the world of science is dry for very good reasons. The rigor of the scientific process demands extensive observation, experimentation and documentation of every minor facet of every minor phenomenon in nature – with the result that you get a lot of studies that cover only a single aspect of specific protein denaturing under a specific set of circumstances, or some such.
Tonight, however, is different.
+ More on Network World: 2013 Ig Nobel Prize winners: from opera-loving mice to stargazing dung beetles +
At Harvard University’s Sanders Theater this evening, a collection of the most off-the-wall, bizarre and lurid scientific efforts of the past year will be dubiously honored with an Ig Nobel Prize.
The Ig Nobels are awarded annually by Improbable Research, an organization devoted to scientific education that publishes the Annals of Improbable Research magazine six times a year. Past honorees have included:
*A study about homosexual necrophilia in ducks
*Competitive analysis of breakfast cereal sogginess
*The discovery that dung beetles can navigate using the Milky Way galaxy
*Proof, as if such was needed, that drunk people find themselves more attractive.
For all the rubber-chicken japes and silliness, there’s a fairly serious point to the Ig Nobels, according to Improbable Research head honcho Marc Abrahams.
“There’s that one sentence which sums it up: things that first make people laugh, and then make them think,” he told Network World in 2007.
Moreover, there’s always plenty of genuine scientific genius in the room at the Ig Nobel event – multiple winners of the actual Nobel Prize are usually in attendance, generally as presenters, and the honorees themselves are frequently no slouches themselves. (As has been widely noted, there’s at least one case of an Ig Nobel winner adding a real Nobel to his trophy case – Andre Geim’s experiment with levitating frogs won the gag prize in 2000, while his invention of graphene won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.)
Couple that with an episodic musical composed and performed specifically for the event, implacably determined children to police long acceptance speeches and an impressive swarm of paper airplanes, and, well, that’s entertainment. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. EST, and can be viewed online for free here.