Saturday, 7 October 2006

The IgNobel Prizes

The 2006 IgNobel prizes were announced yesterday in a grand ceremony at Harvard University. (Yes, the Harvard. Not just any Harvard.) For those of you not familiar with science's glittering Night of Nights, the IgNobels are awarded for achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think. Or blink. Or barf. Or something.

The Annals of Improbable Research, which is responsible for the awards, has published its list of winners and their accomplishments. Over the next few days, I'll give a run down on these successful entries in the category of science known by the technical term as WTF ....?

The first has great appeal. Not for what it does now (although there is more than a bit of the curmudgeon about me) but for what it could be adapted to do.

The IgNobel Peace Prize went to Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales*, who created a teenager-repelling device. More benign than capsicum spray and effective over greater distances than a pitchfork, the appliance creates an irritating high-pitched noise that is inaudible to we old farts but is apparently incredibly annoying to those whose hearing is still intact.

(Note to people who download similarly high-pitched mobile phone tones. Sure, the oldies can't hear it. But we get an idea that there's something up when you answer your bloody phone. You'll need to squeak like a bat to get around that one.)

The manufacturer has already won two business awards for their creation. (But neither is as globally significant as the IgNobel.)

Now, if they could manufacture a professoriate control product, I'll be the first in the queue. That’s the sort of technology I'd be happy to deploy in the corridor outside my room.

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*Very close to the family seat on my mother's side, which is not relevant but interesting. Actually, it's not all that interesting now I come to think of it.

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