REVIEW: "Ig Nobel Prizes", Marc Abrahams
- BKIGNOBL.RVW 20030201
"Ig Nobel Prizes", Marc Abrahams, 2002, 0-75285-150-0, C$24.95/UK#9.99
%A Marc Abrahams air@...
%C Orion House, 5 Upper St. Martin's Lane, London, UK WC2H 9EA
%I Orion Books Ltd.
%O C$24.95/UK#9.99 info@...
%P 319 p.
%T "Ig Nobel Prizes"
Once upon a time, there was a magazine known as the Journal of
Irreproducible Results (JIR) (cf. BKBSTJIR.RVW and BKSEX.RVW).
Reproducibility being the touchstone of scientific utility, it was
devoted to publicizing scientific research which either cannot or
should not be reproduced. There are some who say that the Annals of
Improbable Research (AIR) is the continuation of the Journal of
Irreproducible Results. There are others who will sue you if you do.
Suffice it to say, then, that AIR is either Mad magazine's answer to
science or science's answer to Mad magazine, and nobody is quite sure
The Ig Nobel awards have been given out each year since 1991. The
ceremonies are hilarious, as can be seen from the video clips on the
Web page at http://www.improbable.com/ig/ig-top.html. The prizes
celebrate terrifically bad science (such as studies into the memory of
water), really misunderstood science (such as the illegality of
chemical glassware in Texas), just plain bizarre science (studies into
the relation of the size of certain parts of the body in relation to
the size of, say feet)--and sometimes pure, dogged determination in
the pursuit of knowledge whose value we have not yet ascertained.
This book outlines the history of, and rationale for, the Ig Nobel
prizes, and describes a representative sample of the winning work. My
personal favorite has been the study which shows that incompetent
people are too incompetent to be able to judge how incompetent they
are. I use PawSense as an example when teaching about biometrics, so
I am delighted to have a reference work to which to direct skeptical
students. And, of course, I am thrilled to note the relatively high
proportion of Canadians honored in these pages.
Marc Abrahams has done a wonderful job of writing up this material.
It's readable, funny, sometimes outrageous, and occasionally poignant.
I highly recommend this book to anyone engaged in scientific or
technical work. I recommend it to anyone else, too, with the warning
proviso from the Electric Company television show: if you're not
careful you may even learn something.
copyright, Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKIGNOBL.RVW 20030201
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
- (John A.?/William?) Shedd
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade