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Ig Nobel Prizes : The Annals of Improbable Research Hardcover – 17 Oct 2002
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Len Fisher, author or How To Dunk A Doughnut has agreed to do local radio interviews from Bristol as a recipient of an Ig in 1999.I also putting forward a London-based winner from this year's award or interviews, Chris McManus (author of Right Hand, Left Hand, W&N) MAGAZINESTIME MAGAZINE - reviewNEW SCIENTIST - reviewTHE TABLET - reviewFOCUS - review PRESSTHE EXPRESS - full page feature about the Ig Nobel AwardsTHE EXPRESS - Beachecomber piece on the bookTHE TIMES - piece about the Ig Nobel AwardsDAILY TELEGRAPH - piece about the awardsTHE OBSERVER - piece about the awardsTIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT - feature article on bookIRISH NEWS - reviewSOUTH WALES EVENING POST - reviewDAILY RECORD - article about the awardsWORCESTER EVENING NEWS - reviewSENTINEL SUNDAY - reviewNEWS & STAR (EAST CUMBRIA) - reviewSHIELDS GAZETTE - reviewEVENING EXPRESS (ABERDEEN) - reviewLIVERPOOL ECHO - reviewGLOUCESTER CITIZEN - reviewBLACKPOOL GAZETTE - reviewCAMBRIDGE EVENING NEWS - reviewPERTHSHIRE ADVERTISER - reviewSCARBOROUGH TRADER - review RADIOBBC RADIO 4 TODAY programme - interview with Marc AbrahamsITN NEWS - interview with Marc AbrahamsLBC RADIO - interview with Marc AbrahamsBBC RADIO SOUTHAMPTON - interview withMarc AbrahamsBBC RADIO JERSEY - interview with Marc and LenBBC RADIO KENT - interview with Len FisherBBC RADIO SHROPSHIRE - interview with Len FisherBBC RADIO LEEDS - interview with LenBBC RADIO WALES - reviewBBC RADIO WILTSHIRE SOUND - interview INTERNETwww.thisislondon.co.uk - article about the awards TOU
The world-famous awards for the most bizarre and weird real-life scientific research.See all Product description
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The blurb says it will make you laugh; and then make you think. It didn't make me laugh very often, but it did make me smile a few times. There were a few favourites, for example I didn't know that there was a British Standard for tea (BS6008), and that learned men have developed equations for the correct length of time to dunk a biscuit. Other have used magnets to levitate frogs, and have perfected the technique for getting the barbecue lit. And too temperature. In three seconds.
There are some mad people out there and some of them are responsible for things and other people! This book celebrates their achievements...
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Many even stranger pieces of research are likewise discussed from a discussion of poultry aerodynamics in "Chicken Plucking and Tornado Wind Speed," to brain efficiency manipulation in "The Intelligence of Single-Nostril Breathing." Without doubt, though, my absolutely favorite piece of scholarship begins on page 212, and is a piece originally published as "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," which originally appeared in "Social Text" (Spring/Summer 1996.) The author, Professor Alan Sokol, believes that academics use enormously complex language to describe the simplest of things, and as such decided to write a paper that was completely and utterly incoherent, that meant nothing, but that was cloaked in obscure jargon. Of course, the editors of "Social Text" didn't know this and found it brilliant and insightful. The joke was on them and they ran it and became the academic laughingstocks they so richly deserved to be. The book excerpts the article, which I have read in full elsewhere.
(I highly recommend that you do the same.) Readers of bigheaded nonsense will adore this work, a random excerpt of which follows: "Lacan's 'topologie du sujet' has been applied fruitfully to cinema criticism and to the psychoanalysis of AIDS. In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound...."
Utterly brilliant, and highly recommended.
For those unfamiliar, the Ig Nobel prizes are awarded every year for "achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced" in an elaborate spectacle of a ceremony at Harvard University. Among the participants are many genuine Nobel Prize winners, proving beyond doubt that scientists do have a sense of humor.
There is something for everyone in this book, even for those who hate science; in fact especially for those who hate science. The subjects coast gracefully from the bizarre ("Elevator Music Prevents the Common Cold") to the absolute fringe of science ("The Effects of Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetites of Leeches"; the sour cream was the biggest appetite stimulant, by the way). There are subjects you would have never thought of (unless you are a scientist with way too much time and Federal grant money on your hands) from levitating frogs to "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed". The subject matter is dizzying and amusing.
I eventually settled on a four star rating for a couple of reasons. First, in a majority of cases, these studies are supported through tax dollars, and I generally resent the glorification of wasted money, which this book surely is in great, if unintentional, part (only a small percentage of these studies have genuine follow on benefits; most were clearly done for square-filling publication in the 'publish or perish' world of academia). Second, the politically motivated selection of some recipients, notably Edward Teller, is an undeserved slap at scientists who did and do work on defense projects (where a huge number of genuine scientific advances actually occur) by what is an obviously smug class of academics, who clearly seek to advance their own political agenda. I find that to have tarnished what would have otherwise been a superior work of science reporting and humor.
Despite my reservations, I overall recommend the book, as it does generally meet its stated goals of making a person laugh and think.