cover image The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annals of Improbable Research

The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Annals of Improbable Research

Marc Abrahams. Dutton Books, $18.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94753-0

Each year, the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research awards 10 Ig Nobel prizes to assorted scientists, professors and ordinary folk for their projects and accomplishments, some of which are""commendable--if perhaps goofy,"" and others simply baffling. Written by AIR editor Abrahams, this book entertainingly immortalizes dubious, but real, endeavors, such as the study of electric shock treatment's effects on rattlesnake bites; the proposition (from a Maharishi Univeristy faculty member) that meditation would reduce violent crime in Washington, DC; and the British Royal Navy's budget-driven directive to have its sailors shout ""Bang!"" instead of using live cannon shells. A list of past winners reveals that in 1991, Dan Quayle was honored with an Education Ig Nobel""for demonstrating, better than anyone else, the need for science education,"" and that in 1992, former L.A. police chief Daryl Gates (who was forced to resign in the wake of the Rodney King beating) was awarded a Peace Ig Nobel""for his uniquely compelling methods of bringing people together."" Abrahams also describes the annual ceremony to honor these awardees--where Nobel Laureates are invited to bestow the prizes, paper airplanes are tossed from audience to stage and back, and 30-second limits on lectures are enforced by baseball umps (""Anyone who exceeded the time limit was thrown off the stage. This proved popular with the audience"")--which has become a surprise hit. This is a delightfully weird little volume for those with an irreverent attitude toward accomplishment.