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IRA FLATOW, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

For 17 years, one award has saluted the strange and silly in science. Giving awards for achievements that first make you laugh and then make you think.

This year, our post-Thanksgiving selection of highlights from the 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards.

We won't be taking calls this hour, so please don't try to call in. But if you want more information about what we're talking about, go to our Web site at sciencefriday.com, where you'll find links to our topic.

The Ig Nobel awards are presented each year by the science humor magazine the Annals of Improbable Research. In the past, they've honored the inventor of the pink plastic lawn flamingo, saluted research into why woodpeckers don't get headaches - I like that - and given the inventor of karaoke a peace prize. What's untapped this year? Well I don't know, but it taste like chicken.

We take you now to the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, where Marc Abrahams, ringleader of the Ig's is preparing to take the stage.

(Soundbite of music)

KAREN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

(Soundbite of music)

KAREN: Hello, people. You're welcome to come to the stage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: Hooray.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Tonight's proceedings will be simultaneously translated into Dutch.

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into German.

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into Polish.

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into Russian.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into Turkish.

Unidentified Man #3: (Turkish spoken).

Unidentified Woman #2: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into Japanese.

Unidentified Man #4: (Japanese spoken).

Unidentified Man #3: (Turkish spoken).

Unidentified Woman #2: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into Farsi.

Unidentified Woman #3: (Farsi spoken)

Unidentified Man #4: (Japanese spoken)

Unidentified Man #3: (Turkish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

KAREN: And simultaneously translated into body language.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman #3: (Farsi spoken)

Unidentified Man #4: (Japanese spoken)

Unidentified Man #3: (Turkish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Polish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: (German spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Dutch spoken)

KAREN: And now the grand introduction of delegations led by the exalted, grand, high panjandrum of delegations, Louise Sacco.

(Soundbite of people speaking in foreign languages)

KAREN: As we introduce each delegation, it will make its presence known by standing up and twirling in place, three times, quarter clockwise. Please greet them with the respect they deserve.

(Soundbite of people speaking in foreign languages)

KAREN: Let's begin with the introductions.

Marching tonight is the Boston Squeeze Box ensemble.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Known as BSB.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Or the Mad Cow Musicians.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: They're led by Professor Michelle(ph) from Harvard Medical School.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: The International U.S. Sauerkraut-Topped Pizza Baguette Pie Bakery delegation of from the Fujiyama.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Lawyers for and against chickens, presenting U.S. chicken patents(ph).

Students from the Harvard University Department of Economics, speaking up for the eggs. We were first.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Harvard Society of Physics students.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: We also have Chicken Little.

Theta Zoo, the third East traveling animal zoo.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: The Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fictions Association.

Boston Mensa, the organization for people who score in the abnormal range on certain psychological tests.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: The Procrastination Caucus, Alumni chapter…

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: …from the Kennedy School of Government.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: And finally, the HenCam delegation, making the everyday life of chickens available to all.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, literati pseudo-intellectuals, quasi pseudo intellectuals and presidential science advisers…

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: …may I introduce our master of ceremonies, the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, the chief airhead, Marc Abrahams.

KAREN: Marc Abrahams.

Unidentified Man #5: Marc Abrahams.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MARC ABRAHAMS (Editor, Annals of Improbable Research): Thank you, Karen. We are gathered here tonight to honor some remarkable individuals and groups. Every winner has done something that, first, makes people laugh and then makes them think.

The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony is produced by the science humor magazine, the Annals of Improbable Research. It's cosponsored, probably, by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and by the Harvard Computer Society. Tonight, 10 prizes will be given. The achievements speak for themselves all too eloquently.

And now, Professor Jean Berko Gleason will deliver the traditional Ig Nobel welcome, welcome speech.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. JEAN BERKO GLEASON (Psychology, Radcliffe-Harvard University): Welcome. Welcome.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The editors of the Annals of Improbable Research have chosen a theme for this year's ceremony. And this year's theme is chicken.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: To honor the theme of chicken, we have a keynote speech.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Our keynote speech is delivered by the man, who, in certain respect, is the world's top authority on chicken. Please welcome, Doug Zongker.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. DOUG ZONGKER (Senior Software Engineer, Google): Chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken. Chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken. Chicken. Chicken, chicken. Chicken, chicken, chickens, chicken, chickens, chickens, chickens, chickens, chicken, chickens, chickens, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: As you know, the theme of tonight's ceremony is chicken.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Sanders Theater regulations prohibit the flying or the throwing of chickens.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now let's get it over with.

Ladies and gentlemen the awarding of the 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes.

We're giving our 10 prizes. The winners come from many nations on five continents. These year's winners have truly earned their prizes.

Karen, tell them what they've won.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: Thank you.

Oh, this year's Ig Nobel Prize winners each win an Ig Nobel Prize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: What else?

KAREN: A piece of paper, saying they've won an Ig Nobel Prize signed by several Nobel laureates.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And what else?

KAREN: Ah. That's it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: How wonderful. Thank you, Karen.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: This is the coveted Ig Nobel Prize.

FLATOW: Ten prizes are awarded each year. Winners travel to the Ig ceremony at their own expense. Some winners embrace the awards, others just try to hide from it, and some just - well, they just don't know what to think.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, our winners. First, the medicine prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Ig Nobel Medicine Prize this year is awarded to Brian Witcombe of Gloucester in the U.K. and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee in the U.S. for their penetrating medical report "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here are Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. BRIAN WITCOMBE (Radiologist; Winner, Ig Nobel Medicine Prize): Ladies and gentlemen, knowledge often advances when people from different fields of activity come together to look at an issue of mutual interests from different perspectives. And so it was with this study.

A semi-retired hospital radiologist, who had an occasional interest in patients with swallowing disorders, that's me, came into contact with one of the world's greatest sword swallowers, Dan Meyer. Dan Meyer is not only an outstanding sword swallower with the U.S. record for swallowing swords underwater…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. WITCOMBE: …but he also maintains a comprehensive database of over 100 sword swallowers in more than 16 countries. And this formed the basis of our survey. I am extremely grateful for Dan for his energetic and meticulous and sometimes humorous input, and we are both, of course, extremely grateful for those that bestowed this great honor upon us.

Finally, we are also grateful to our peer reviewer, Dr. Katherine Gribanick(ph), a London consultant cardiothoracic anesthetist who recommended publication of paper to the British Medical Journal editors, saying our paper was a cut above many others…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. WITCOMBE: …add it to the incisive body of literature on sword swallowing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. WITCOMBE: And she wrote it, made its points well and would keep the BMJ at the cutting edge of sword-swallowing literature.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. WITCOMBE: And finally, we're, of course, grateful to all the members of the sword-swallowing fraternity and our medical colleagues.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Oh.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Peace Prize…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Peace Prize is awarded this year to the Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon, the so-called, gay bomb…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: …that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winners could not or would not be with us tonight.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: But we have a demonstration.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: I'm afraid the V-chip of monitor has called off our demonstration.

(Soundbite of booing)

FLATOW: We'll be right back with more Ig action right after this break. Stay with us.

I'm Ira Flatow. And this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

From NPR News, this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

No, we're not chicken. Oh, well, maybe we are. But anyway, here comes more Ig silliness. We now return you to Harvard Sanders Theatre for highlights from this year's 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, it's time for the win-a-date-with-a-Nobel-laureate contest.

(Soundbite of cheering)

KAREN: He's shapely, he's sassy and he is smarter than you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: Robert B. Laughlin won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics for explaining how a strong magnetic field can cause electrons to melt into a rich, creamy quantum fluid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: Raised amidst the walnuts and other nuts in the San Joaquin Valley, Laughlin enjoys playing the piano, taking apart vacuum cleaners, and watching quasi particles behaving badly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: If you think a cool, quantum cocktail with a twist of fractional charge sounds like the perfect nightcap, Bob is that bartender for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAREN: Please give a warm, win-a-date welcome to Robert Laughlin.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: All right, now let's see which lucky audience member will win a date with this Nobel laureate.

When you entered the hall, you were handed an attractive, printed program. Pick it up, open it and look through it. See if you find a picture of a chicken confusedly standing in a crosswalk. If you have that picture in your program, then you've won a date, come on up and claim your prize.

(Soundbite of a woman screaming)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Take it up back, kids, that's okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, get set for something special - the 24/7 lectures. We have invited several of the world's top thinkers to try to tell us very briefly what they're thinking about. Each 24/7 lecturer will explain her or his topic twice. First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds, and then after a brief pause, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 24-second time limit will be enforced by Mr. John Barrett, our referee. Now, let's have the first group of 24/7 lecturers.

Will the poultry inspectors bar the doors?

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The first 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Massimo Marcone, assistant professor of food science at the University of Guelph. His topic: food science.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Professor MASSIMO MARCONE (Food Science, University of Guelph): Food science is an interdisciplinary applied science, which uses principled experimental designs, statistical analysis in the examination of all aspects of foods, from harvest of the ingredients to their behavior during formulation, processing, storage and evaluation as consumer food products. It incorporates concepts from a variety of fields, including chemistry, microbiology and processing and engineering. In a nutshell, food science is concerned with all quality, nutritional, sensory, cultural and safety aspects of foods.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: A clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Prof. MARCONE: Foods that don't kill make you fatter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Physics Prize…

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: This year's Ig Nobel Physics Prize is presented to Mahadevan of Harvard University and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here are Mahadevan and Professor Villablanca's sister, Mariella.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Ms. MARIELLA VILLABLANCA: My brother dedicates his Ig Nobel Prize to all the wrinkled people in the world…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. VILLABLANCA: …especially to our beautiful grandmother. Thank you.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Professor L. MAHADEVAN (Applied Mathematics, Harvard University): Wrinkle, wrinkle on my skin, how I wonder did you begin? By sagging and swelling and shrinking too, while stretching and bending or mixed into a brew, until, aha, a formula that sits on a pin.

How infinitely familiar, how far from (unintelligible) environment is. And no one reminds us of this every day besides our children. So I thank them all particularly our two (unintelligible). Wrinkle, wrinkle on my skin, where I wonder did I sin? Celebrated an art drapery until, aha, pruned by surgery and then just a has-been.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Chemistry Prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize of this year is presented to Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan for developing a way to extract vanillin, the flavor and fragrance of vanilla, from cow dung.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Mayu Yamamoto.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. MAYU YAMAMOTO (Researcher, Yamamoto of the International Medical Center): Thank you. Peace, mate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. YAMAMOTO: What kind of smell you encounter when the cow dung are heated? Can you imagine that? It's a very strange and sweet. Please eat ice cream with cow dung. Thank you.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, here is a special tribute to Mayu Yamamoto. Please welcome, Gus Rancatore, the owner of Toscanini's ice cream.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. GUS RANCATORE (Owner, Toscanini's Ice Cream): Thank you very much. This was a very difficult year in the ice cream business. There were dramatic increases in dairy costs and real estate costs, and Ms. Yamamoto's achievement stood out like a lantern. And Toscanini's was inspired enough to imitate her achievement. And we have samples for the laureates.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Group: Eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it…

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The next 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Jill Lepore, professor of history at Harvard University. Her topic: history.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: First, a complete technical description of the subject in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Professor JILL LEPORE (History, Harvard University): History is in an enduring travel to an archive repository or a library, bring in pencil, fill out little (unintelligible); be the chicken scratch of letters, diaries, love notes, speeches, scrapbooks, (unintelligible), unopened mails, stranger and wondrous people you've never met and never will but you probably should could have. Find out everything you can about how they understood why hens lay eggs. Think about it. Think about it some more, and then make up some cock-and-ball story.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Prof. LEPORE: History is the study of dead people.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The next 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Fariba Houman, the interim director of human subjects administration at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her topic: research ethics.

First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Dr. FARIBA HOUMAN (Interim Director, Human Subjects Committee, Harvard School of Public Health): The ethical conduct of non-exempt human subjects research is governed by set of rules fortified by 45-C and 446; in a phase two trial of avian flu vaccine in a cohort of handlers - animal handlers of broiler chickens.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set go.

Dr. HOUMAN: Research on animal handlers needs IRB approval.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The final 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Nobel laureate William Lipscomb. His topic: chicken.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: First, complete technical summary in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Dr. WILLIAM LIPSCOMB (Nobel Laureate): It is very surprising how many references there are in the Internet for chicken.

(Soundbite of audience)

Dr. LIPSCOMB: Unbelievable. I could go through them, but I don't have much time here.

(Soundbite of audience laughing)

Dr. LIPSCOMB: No one has asked why a chicken crosses the road - to go across the road.

(Soundbite of whistle)

Dr. LIPSCOMB: Uh-oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, a sclear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. On your mark, get set, go.

Dr. LIPSCOMB: Chicken lays egg. It's a standing ovation.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

FLATOW: The Igs are a tribute to the good, the bad and the ugly in science - or at least the strange, silly and the unusual. Where else would levitating frogs, pink plastic flamingos and the beauty preferences of chicken find the highest honors? The awards were handed out on early October at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The biology prize. The Ig Nobel biology prize this year is presented to Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands for doing a census of all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each night.

Here is Professor van Bronswijk.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. JOHANNA E.M.H. van BRONSWIJK (Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands): So my products of energy studies that I started as a student 30 years ago, I found that you never sleep alone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: Nature does not stop at the windowsill. We're only organism in the midst of millions in the dwelling community. In the seat you are using now…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: …mites are following your sweat to the far sites of the cushions. It's little worse on the chairs because they're textile, which also the - also seats have this problem. Our daily production of one to one-and-a-half gram skin scales feeds mites, fungi, bacteria and algae. Hence, when humidity in air or textiles is little higher, also, book lice and wood flies sometimes, one or two young cockroaches…

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop.

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: …(unintelligible).

Ms. SWEETY-POO: …I'm bored.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: It is with much pleasure that I accept the prize…

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: …and hope it will help public understanding…

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: …of the natural processes we belong to.

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

Dr. van BRONSWIJK: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow and this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

Ten prizes are award each year. Winners travel to the Ig ceremony at their own expense. The creators of the award say they intended to spur public curiosity and interest in science, or maybe they're just funny.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Economics Prize.

The Ig Nobel Economics Prize this year is awarded to Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taichung, Taiwan for patenting a device in the year 2001 that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Ig Nobel board of governors has attempted repeatedly to send people to locate Mr. Hsieh, but none of them were able to - he seems to have vanished mysteriously. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this poor man, please get in touch with us. It was suggested to us - and we hope this is not the case - that there is a possibility that the gentleman was trapped inside his own machine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And…

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you. The Linguistics Prize.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: the Ig Nobel Linguistics Prize is awarded to Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles of Universitat de Barcelona for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. LAUGHLIN: The winners could not travel to the ceremony. And so they prepared a video acceptance speech. Here on video is Juan Manuel Toro.

Dr. JUAN MANUEL TORO (Universitat de Barcelona): The basic idea is that for everybody, it's very easy to discriminate between an English sentence such as this one and a Spanish sentence (speaking in Spanish). But it is not so easy to discriminate between them when they are played backwards as in here.

(Soundbite of recorded voice played backwards)

Dr. TORO: This basically because in backwards speech, some very important prosaic features are lost. But the real interesting point is that the same processing constraints are found in human adults, in human infant, in tamarin monkeys and even in rats. So anyway, for us, it's a pleasure and an honor to join the club of the Ig Nobel winners and thank you so much for the prize. Ciao.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: We'll be right back with more Ig action right after this break. Stay with us.

I'm Ira Flatow and this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: From NPR News, this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Don't try to adjust your set. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Ig Nobel Awards, already in progress.

The awards feature a human spotlight, plenty of paper airplanes, Nobel laureates wielding trumpets, a V-chip monitor to screen out potentially offensive material and an onstage experiment, in which the award's major domo eats a never ending bowl of soup.

Unidentified Woman #4: Ig.

Unidentified Woman #5: Ig.

Unidentified Group: Ig Nobel.

Unidentified Woman #4: Ig.

Unidentified Man #5: Ig.

Unidentified Group: Ig Nobel.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Nutrition Prize. The Ig Noble Nutrition Prize is awarded to Brian Wansink of Cornell University for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.

Here is Professor Wansink.

Dr. BRIAN WANSINK (Marketing and Nutritional Science, Cornell University): An ode to a soup bowl. Oh, say can you see my soup bowl refill? But because it's not empty, I keep eating still. I've eaten 14 ounces, but little do I know there's a tube in the bottom and I've got six quarts to go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. WANSINK: Some geek in a red apron just told me to stop. I'm starving, I tell him, the soup is still at the top. Now, do we eat with our eyes? Our eyes do the cheating. It's a psychology of food. It explains my book mindless eating. So if you use a bowl's bottom to tell you you're through, you'll find six quarts later, the last laugh's on you.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: These awards are given out by the science humor magazine, the Annals of Improbable Research. You can find out more about the awards and the magazine at improbable.com.

A team of genuine Nobel laureates hand out the awards to the winners, who receive a handmade price, a certificate, and untold glory and fame.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: We are honored to have with us several past winners of Ig Nobel prizes who have kindly joined us tonight. We'll ask each of them to come up and very briefly say a word.

First, the 2006 Ig Nobel Acoustics Prize was awarded to the team who conducted experiments to learn why it is that people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard. Please welcome back Lynn Halpern.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: When she shows up, you can welcome her properly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HERSCHBACH: You'll hear her first.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Yes. Dudley points out we will hear her - okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 2005 - if it's especially good, that's fine. But the 2005 Ig Noble Economics Prize was awarded to the inventor of an alarm clock that runs away and hides repeatedly, thus insuring that people do get out of bed. Please welcome back, Gauri Nanda.

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. GAURI NANDA (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): So for generations, roosters have been waking us up and chickens can wake us up too but most of us don't have that option. So I made an alarm clock that runs away.

(Soundbite of alarm)

Dr. NANDA: So it'll actually fall to the floor when you hit the snooze button and then run around the room, so you kind of have to go and find it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. NANDA: Just turn it off. Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 1996 Ig Nobel Art Prize was awarded to the creator of the plastic pink flamingo. Please welcome back Don Featherstone and his wife Nancy Featherstone.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. DON FEATHERSTONE (Artist): Oh, he thinks he's a chicken. I'm happy to say the pink flamingo look like it was going to be - going the way of the dodo bird. And the factory closed and it remained that way for about a year. But a man out in New Hartford, New York, just purchased the dice and is now on full production.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. FEATHERSTONE: So like the phoenix, the flamingo has reared its tacky little head and started to work on the state of New York now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEATHERSTONE: Thank you.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The 1999 Ig Nobel Entomology Prize was awarded to Dr. Robert Lopez for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats and inserting them carefully into his own ear and then observing and analyzing what happened after that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: I'm very sorry to report that Dr. Lopez passed away earlier this year. His daughter, Jen, is with us tonight and her two sons. Jen? I wonder if you would stand and take a bow.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Literature Prize. The Ig Nobel Literature Prize this year is presented to Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia for her study of the word the and of the many ways the word the causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Here is Glenda Browne.

Ms. GLENDA BROWNE (Freelance Indexer): Thank you. I work as an indexer, the person who creates the A-to-Z access points at the back of books, magazines, Web sites, journals, online help - just about anywhere. Few people know that indexers exist and even fewer know that we worry ceaselessly about how to alphabetize our entries so you can find what you need. The is a case in point. It's a funny little word that sometimes matters and sometimes doesn't. You start the Bible and the Beatles at B, but The Hague and the Camel's Hump is an ugly one at T. And that's before you get to terms like the pill, the Beatle the deaf, the undead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROWNE: So, no worries, here's my guide to the rules: When following a title, the goes at the end, then you start with a lowercase letter. But in index, the first lines put the at the front, somehow they think that works better. In corporate bodies, the is often left out. It's part of the name, but it has not much clout. They didn't place names, they use important to show you must trust the rules for surely they know. With love to John, Bill and Jenny back home, to all the indexers around the world from Indexel, the indexer Ancy(ph) and friends and family…

Ms. SWEETY-POO: Please stop. I'm bored.

Ms. BROWNE: To my sister Carol for being here, and for saying an Ig Nobel is the best award you could ever win. Thank you.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, it is my honor to introduce our presiding monarch, ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the king and queen. Their majesties, the king and perhaps the queen of Swedish meatballs.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: You may be seated. Your majesties, you may be seated. Thank you. Now it's time for the nano lectures. Two of the world's great scientists will explain the inner workings of chickens.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Each nano lecture is a maximum of 30 seconds long. The 30-second time limit will be enforced by our referee, Mr. John Barrett. Mr. Barrett?

Mr. JOHN BARRETT (Ig Nobel Referee): Gentlemen, keep it clean.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you. The first nano lecture will be presented by Dudley Herschbach. Professor Herschbach will explain in 30 seconds or less the chemistry of chickens. Ready, set, go.

Dr. HERSCHBACH: I dedicate this lecture to Albert Einstein. He liked to say nobody expected me to lay golden eggs. Today, the global population of chickens is about 25 billion. All are superb biochemists, especially the hens. They're able to solve a problem that stumped Einstein and has tormented generations of scientists. How can you unscramble an egg or restore Humpty Dumpty? Usually…

(Soundbite of whistle)

Dr. HERSCHBACH: …it's said to be thermodynamically impossible because of inescapable entropy.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you.

Dr. HERSCHBACH: But just feed a scrambled egg…

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Our next…

Dr. HERSCHBACH: …to a hen, give her about a day and she'll deliver a nice, new egg.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Our next nano lecture will be delivered by…

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Our next nano-lecture and our final nano lecture will be delivered by Kees Moeliker, the curator of birds at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He will explain in 30 seconds or less chickens and ducks, chickens and ducks. Ready, set, go.

Mr. KEES MOELIKER (Curator, Natural History Museum of Rotterdam): This is not a chicken. This is a duck. It is the Ig duck. This duck got me the Ig Nobel Prize 2003 because I saw the first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. To the best of my knowledge, his behavior has not been observed in chickens. Thank you.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, the final prize of the evening, the Aviation Prize. The Ig Nobel Aviation Prize is awarded to Patricia Agostino, Santiago Plano and Diego Golombek of the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters. Here is Professor Golombek.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Dr. DIEGO GOLOMBEK (Biology, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes): Thank you. I have a message from your International Hamster Frequent Travelers Association that says thank you scientists for fulfilling all of our needs. We are Syrian hamsters, that's a lot of time zones away and we have a lot of sex life so we have both our desires fulfilled. And I have a message from the Laboratory Rat and Mice Society that says, why not us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. GOLOMBEK: Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues and my students for performing wonderful research that make - made us laugh and then think and also for going to the drugstore to get the Viagra for all of us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. GOLOMBEK: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow and this is TALK OF THE NATION: Science Friday from NPR News.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, Professor Jean Berko Gleason will deliver the traditional Ig Nobel, Goodbye, goodbye speech.

Dr. GLEASON: Goodbye. Goodbye.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And we ask now - all of the new Ig Nobel winners and the past Ig Nobel winners and the lectures join the Nobel laureates at center stage for a pointless photo-opportunity. If you could move up to the front.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAREN: Hooray.

(Soundbite of music)

KAREN: I think there are more.

(Soundbite of music)

KAREN: Okay. I guess that's it.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Everybody please put your hands together, whack them together. Shower these people with self-esteem.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: On behalf now of the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard Computer Society, especially on behalf of the Annals of Improbable Research, we want to thank you very much for coming tonight. Thank you to all of the people here, who took a lot of time out to do this. And…

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: …please just remember this final thought: If you didn't win an Ig Nobel Prize this year, and especially if you did: better luck next year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you. Good night.

(Soundbite of applause)

FLATOW: That's all from us. Our thanks to Mark Abrahams and the folks at the Annals of Improbable Research. You can find out more at improbable.com.

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