Ig Nobels Salute Stranger Side Of Science What do studies on potato chips, puzzle-solving slime mold and jumping fleas have in common? Each was awarded an Ig Nobel prize by the editors of the humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Annals editor Marc Abrahams is emcee of this broadcast of the awards ceremony.
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Ig Nobels Salute Stranger Side Of Science

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Ig Nobels Salute Stranger Side Of Science

Ig Nobels Salute Stranger Side Of Science

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IRA FLATOW, host:

This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. Have you ever wondered just how the crispy crunch of a potato chip relates to your idea of how fresh it tastes? Or looked at your pets and asked yourself, self, I wonder if fleas that live on a dog can jump any higher than fleas that live on a cat. Well, wonder no more because on this holiday edition of Science Friday, we'll be taking you to Harvard Sanders Theater where earlier this year, the Ig Nobel Awards were handed out. The Igs sleuth the strange and unusual in the world of science, research that first makes you laugh and then, makes you think.

This hour, a tribute to redundancy, real Nobel laureates mingling with their Ig Nobel counterparts' redundancy. Ten awards for research that truly runs the scientific gamut and a tribute to redundancy. We won't be taking your calls this hour so please let your phone dialing fingers have the day off. If you want more information about what we're talking about this hour, go to our website at www.sciencefriday.com. So now, without further adieu, a trip back in time, a few months to Cambridge, Massachusetts where the Ig Nobel Award Ceremony is ready to begin. Ig Nobel master of ceremonies, Mark Abrahams.

Mr. MARK ABRAHAMS (Ig Nobel Master of Ceremonies): Thank you. We are gathered here tonight to honor some remarkable individuals and groups. Each 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." And it's probably co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and by the Harvard Computer Society. Tonight, ten prizes will be given. The achievements speak for themselves, all too eloquently. The editors of the "The Annals of Improbable Research" have chosen a theme for this year's ceremony and this year's theme is redundancy. Redundancy, I say, yes, redundancy. And now, Professor Helen Haste will give the traditional Ig Nobel welcome, welcome speech.

Professor HELEN HASTE (University of Bath, Department of Psychology): Welcome. Welcome.

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.

Dr. KAREN HOPKIN (National Public Radio Producer): I'm Karen Hopkin, the creator of the creator of the Studmuffins of Science Calendar. I'm also the creator of Christopher Hopkin. Tonight's proceedings will be simultaneously translated into English.

Unknown Translator: Tonight's proceedings will be simultaneously translated into English.

Dr. HOPKIN: And simultaneously translated into Canadian.

Unknown Translator: Tonight's proceedings will be simultaneously translated into Canadian.

Dr. HOPKIN: And simultaneously translated into Bostonian.

Unknown Translator: Just like in Fields Corner.

Dr. HOPKIN: And simultaneously translated into British.

Unknown Translator: We'll translate the little bugger into British.

Dr. HOPKIN: And simultaneously translated into doubletalk.

Unknown Translator: Behemoth knuckle trash giant.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, with that out of the way, I want to talk a bit about chickens. As you know, the theme of last year's ceremony was chicken. This year, we have a different theme. If we had the same theme as last year, well, that would be redundancy. However, Sanders Theater regulations still prohibit the flying or throwing of chickens so please refrain from that. And finally, paper airplanes. Security regulations also prohibit the flying of airplanes inside Sanders Theater. But we are aware that many of you, mostly older responsible people who set good examples for us students, you are determined to throw paper airplanes.

So we ask that you channel your proclivities into the cause of recycling. There will be two. That's two special moments tonight. Those will be the times to throw your paper airplanes. Wait for those two special moments. We will tell you when they arrive. You won't need to guess. In the meantime, and especially during the next two minutes. Please hold on to your paper airplanes and do not throw them. Thank you.

It's me again. I'd like to introduce and I'm pleased to introduce Professor Thomas Michel, Dean of Education at Harvard Medical School who will introduce Dan Meyer, a past winner of the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize. Please welcome, Professor Thomas Michel.

Professor THOMAS MICHEL (Dean of Education, Harvard Medical School): Thank you, Joshua. Hi. I'm Thomas Michel, the Dean of Education at Harvard Medical School and I am pleased to introduce Dan Meyer, a past winner of the Ig Nobel Prize for medicine. Please welcome, Dan Meyer.

Dr. DAN MEYER (2007 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize Winner): Hi. I'm Dan Meyer. Last year, Dr. Brian Witcombe and I were honored to receive the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for our study that was published in the British Medical Journal entitled "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects." In the sake of redundancy, for those of you who may have missed it last year, let me give you a summary.

(Sounds of applause)

Dr. MEYER: Welcome to the Igs.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: We're honored to have with us tonight several Ig Nobel winners from previous years. I'll introduce them to you now. The 2006 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize awarded to the author of the medical report "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage." Please welcome back Dr. Francis Fesmire.

Dr. FRANCIS FESMIRE (2006 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize Winner): Thank you. Thank you. It is an honor to be back here at my old alma mater, class of 1981. All complex systems whether designed by man or nature have redundancy. All great inventions have built in redundancy so as to ensure proper function. Like all great inventions, my cure for hiccups has an inherent redundancy. Thank you. Thank you.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: I've been asked to make a quick medical announcement. Please pay attention. Should you have during the ceremony an attack of intractable hiccups, please notify one of the ushers, and you will be brought on stage immediately. The 2007 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize was awarded to the coauthors of the medical reports "Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects." Please welcome back half of that team, the president of the Sword Swallowers Association International, Dan Meyer.

Mr. DAN MEYER (President, Sword Swallowers Association International): Thank you. It was a huge honor for Dr. Witcombe and I to receive the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine last year, and it's a huge honor to be back again this year in the spirit of redundancy yet again. For those of you who blinked last time, here it is one more time.

(Soundbite of audience cheering)

Mr. MEYER: Thank you.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Make your own puns. 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.

Mr. DON FEATHERSTONE (Creator, Plastic Pink Flamingo): Well, I don't know but I think we're already redundant. We've been wearing the same clothes for over 30 years, everyday. It's a hard thing to beat. And again, the flamingo still lives. This is the new package. And again, two in a package. It's kind of redundant but anyway, they're being made out in New York State now. So not only is redundancy here like the gentleman ahead of me, poor taste is still here, which is kind of nice to have.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And finally, a warm welcome to the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize winner. He's responsible for the world's first scientific report of "Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Duck." Here he is from Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Kees Moeliker.

Mr. KEES MOELIKER (Author, "Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Duck"): Hello again. Maybe you remember me. I won the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize for my observation of the first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard. If not, you certainly remember my stuffed duck. Back in 2003, I donated this duck to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Every year for the Igs, the museum kindly loaned me the duck so I could wave with it.

This year, the duck was supposed to have his 5th public appearance but the museum changed its policy and rejected my request. The Ig duck will probably forever stay in its protective surroundings two blocks away from here. Hopefully, someday they will put it on display. So I'm sorry there's no Ig duck tonight, but instead I have a nice stand in.

(Soundbite of duck quacking)

Mr. MOELIKER: Thank you.

(Soundbite of crowd applauding)

FLATOW: Ten prices are awarded each year. Winners travel to the Ig ceremony at their own expense. The creators of the awards say they're intended to spur public curiosity and interest in science or maybe they're just fun. We'll be right back after this short break. More Ig Nobel action coming up. Stay with us. This is Talk of the Nation Science Friday from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: This is Talk of the Nation Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. This is the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards happening this year for the 18th year. This year's theme of the 18th First Annual Awards is redundancy. And now, on with the 18th Annual Awards.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you. And now, let's get it over with. It's time, ladies and gentlemen, for the awarding of the 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes. We are giving out ten prizes. The winners come from many nations. This year's winners have truly earned their prizes. Karen, please tell them what they have won.

Ms. HOPKIN: Each winner will take home an Ig Nobel Prize.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: What else?

Ms. HOPKIN: A piece of paper saying they've won an Ig Nobel Prize, and it's actually signed by several Nobel laureates.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Oh, anything else?

Ms. HOPKIN: They only get one.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Oh. OK. Thank you very much. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the coveted Ig Nobel Prize.

(Soundbite of crowd applauding)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: These are hand-made from extremely cheap materials by Mr. Eric Workman. Eric, could you come out and take a bow?

And now, our winners. First, the nutrition prize. The Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize is awarded to Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy, and Charles Spence of Oxford University in the UK for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winner could not or would not be with us tonight. The Archeology Prize. The Archeology Prize is awarded to Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino of the Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history or at least the contents of an archeological dig site can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo. The winners could not or would not be here with us tonight.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Peace Prize. The Ig Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and to the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity. Joining us tonight is Urs Thurnherr, a member of the committee.

(Soundbite of crowd applauding)

Mr. URS THURNHERR (Member, Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology): Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the ECNH, I would like to thank you sincerely for awarding us an Ig Nobel Prize for our study on the dignity of living beings with regard to plants and thereby, drawing attention to the topic of plant life. Our study is a product of the committee's mandate and is to be understood against the background of the Swiss Federal Constitution.

It's certainly understandable that an enterprise concerned with the question of the dignity of plants should first make you laugh, but have you ever forgotten to water one of your houseplants and then had to throw it away? Did that make you feel uneasy in any way? If so, when you can already relate to this subject and you might even be tempted to read our study after today's event. Once again, many thanks.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: I'm your V-Chip monitor. Please carefully listen to the safety and recycling announcement. It is almost, and I emphasize almost, time to throw the paper airplanes. Remember what's important. Safety, accuracy, recycling, and safety, and redundancy. If you have skill at paper airplane throwing, please aim at the recycling target, not at the people, not at me. It's right over there. Everyone else, at least, try aiming at the recycling target. Now, get ready to throw. On your mark. Get set. Throw.

The Biology Prize. The Ig Nobel Biology Prize is awarded to Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France, for discovering that fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat. The winners were unable to join us tonight but we do have a demonstration.

Unidentified Man: Jump. Jump.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, get set for something special - the 24/7 lecturer. We have invited several of the world's top thinkers to tell us very briefly what they're thinking about. Each 24/7 lecturer will explain her or his subject 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. The 24-second time limit will be enforced by our referee, Mr. John Barrett. Mr. Barrett, have you anything, any advice, to give the 24/7 lecturers?

Mr. JOHN BARRETT: Gentlemen, keep it clean.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Thank you, Mr. Barrett. Now, let's have the first group of 24/7 lecturers who will be the final group of 24/7 lecturers. Will the duplicators bar the doors? The first round of 24/7 lectures is about to begin. The final round of 24/7 lectures is about to begin. The final round of 24/7 lectures is about to begin. The first 24/7 lecture will be delivered by Anna Lysyanskaya, associate professor of computer science at Brown University. Her topic, cryptography. First, a complete technical description of the subject in 24 seconds. On your mark. Get set. Go.

Professor ANNA LYSYANSKAYA (Computer Science, Brown University; Cryptography): The cryptographic system is secure if no matter what probabilistic polynomial time algorithm the bad guys are using, they still can't hurt the good guys. To prove security, we typically relate the computational complexity of launching an attack to that of a computational task known or believed to be impossible, although for certain scenarios unconditionally secured solutions exist. Security of others relies on the established complexity of theoretic assumptions.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

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

Ms. LYSYANSKAYA: It ain't secure 'til you prove it.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The next 24/7 lecturer will be delivered by Dany Adams, biologist at the Forsyth Center. Her topic, biology. First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark. Get set. Go.

Ms. DANY ADAMS (Biologist, Forsyth Center; Biology): Biology is full of redundancy. At the molecular level, proteins can act as surrogates. For example, two wingless receptors, frizzled free-frizzled(ph) two can function redundantly upstream of the armadillo gene while regulation of the armadillo protein is by then redundantly acting sparc(ph)-64 and sparc-42A. At the organismal level, the reproductive strategy of the nine-banded armadillo also exploits redundancy. Females invariably give birth to identical quadruplets.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

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

Ms. ADAMS: The armadillo's message, have a plan B.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The third and final 24/7 electorate will be delivered by William Lipscomb, the Abet and James Lawrence professor of Chemistry emeritus at Harvard University.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Professor Lipscomb's topic, redundancy. First, a complete technical description in 24 seconds. On your mark, get set, go.

Professor WILLIAM LIPSCOMB (Chemistry, Harvard University): Redundancy. Exceeding what is unnecessary. Superfluous. Verbose. You find this throughout, and yet, the content is not there but the content is always there.

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

Mr. LIPSCOMB: The source of real, original thought is not present in the definition of redundancy.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Yes. The medicine prize, the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize is awarded this year to Dan Arielle of Duke University for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more efficient than low-priced fake medicine. Here is Dan Arielle.

Mr. DAN ARIELLE: Twelve years ago, I sat around that corner and I was in my last year of graduate studies. And I was inspired by the people who were getting awards on this stage. And I knew that one day I wanted to be like them, too. So I took a job at MIT, and I worked very hard. I produced a lot of studies that I thought would win me the Ig Nobel Award.

In fact, I wrote a whole book that I thought should have won me this prize. But, no. So, I'm extremely pleased to get the award today for this prize. And my only problem is that I don't know once I reach this peak, what else could I strive for? So thank you very much. I also want to thank some other people, of course. First of all, I want to thank my wife. It's very hard to be married to me, I'm realizing that after a while.

Unidentified Woman: Please stop, I'm bored. Please stop, I'm bored. Please stop, I'm bored...

Mr. ARIELLE: I want to thank Bron Ring(ph). My third grade - my third grade teacher was always very supportive of me, and I want to appreciate her. Are you really bored? Are you really bored? Thank you very much.

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow, this is Talk of the Nation Science Friday from NPR News. 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 noble laureates hand out the awards to the winners, who receive a hand-made prize, a certificate, and untold glory and fame.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Cognitive science prize, the Ig Nobel Cognitive science prize is awarded to Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University; Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya; Rio Kobayashi of Hiroshima University; Atsushi Taro, Presto JST; Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University; and Agota Toth of the University of Szeged, Hungary for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles. There are Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Rio Kobayashi and Atsushi Taro.

Mr. TOSHIYUKI NAKAGAKI: To(ph)...

Mr. RIO KOBAYASHI: Try(ph)...

Mr. ATSUSHI TARO: For(ph)...

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. NAKAGAKI: Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. In the most standard dictionary of Japanese language so, kojian(ph), so we can find out words, a single cell, which means almost stupid. But, so now is the time to say, objection. So, slime mold's, the single cell organism is much smarter than we usually thought. So that's true. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Literature prize, the Ig Nobel Literature Prize is awarded to David Sims of Cass Business School in London for his lovingly written study, "You Bastard, A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations". Here is David Sims.

Mr. DAVID SIMS: Of course, I understand we're all different. But I can workout where you're coming from, you probably have your reason for doing what you're doing and in some parallel universe, you might be right. I'm a very liberal person accustomed to seeing other people's view points. And that makes it all the more strange that I can't see yours. What sort of character are you? I just can't make any sense of what you're doing. I can't imagine what sort of story you think you're living out. Don't get me wrong.

I realize you might just be very stupid. But that stupid? As it happens, I'm one of the good guys. We defeat the bad guys. That's how we know we're the good guys. If that helps, then so be it. You've brought it on yourself. You have forced me into seeing you in a way that I don't really approve of, and that makes me even more angry. You bastard!

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Alas, we do not have a demonstration.

FLATOW: We're going to take a short break, stay with us for more Ig silliness coming up.

FLATOW: This is Talk of the Nation Science Friday, I'm Ira Flatow. No, you haven't got the wrong station on the dial. It's our annual broadcast of highlights from the Ig Nobel Awards. We now return you to Harvard Sanders Theater where something wondrous and strange is about to happen.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now it's time for the win-a-date with a Nobel laureate contest. And here is Karen Hopkin to tell us about our laureate.

Ms. HOPKIN: Thanks Mark. He's cute, he's clever, and he's got that twinkle in his eyes. If you win tonight's contest, Bill Lipscomb is your prize. William, William Lipscomb won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for solving the structure of a man-made molecule that suffers from a serious electron deficiency. An honorary Kentucky colonel, Professor Lipscomb enjoys reading Sherlock Holmes, playing the clarinet, and shaking people's hands. If you're interested in sharing your electrons, the colonel can show you how it's done. Let's give a warm win-a-date welcome to William Lipscomb.

(Soundbite of applause)

Prof. LIPSCOMB: Now, let's see which lucky audience member will win a date with this Nobel laureate. When you enter the hall, the ushers handed you an attractive, printed program. Pick it up and look through it. If your program contains a picture of Nobel laureate Frank Willcheck(ph) shaking hands with the dummy version of himself, then you've won a date with this Nobel laureate. Come on up and claim your prize.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Woman: But what do we do now?

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The winner asked me what do we do now? You're both adults. And I suggest whatever it is, you do it elsewhere. So thank you, a hand for our winner and prize.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, it's time for the Chemistry prize. The Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize is awarded to Sherrie Ampere of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph Hill of the Fertility Centers of New England, Deborah Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard University School of Medicine for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide. And to Changya Hong(ph) of Taipei Medical University, Xixi Chiyap(ph), Pi Wu(ph), and Bi Yon Chang(ph) for discovering that it's not. Where is Dr. Anderson? She is joined by Dr. Hong's daughter Wan Hong(ph).

(Soundbite of applause)

Dr. DEBORAH ANDERSON: Well, I like to start by thanking the Ig Nobel Prize committee for recognizing our seminal research paper. After 22 years, it was published in 1985. So I'm very honored. And I'd like to thank my co-authors, Dr. Hill, who provided the biological materials for our study. And Dr. Sherrie Ampere, who planted the seed for our project. We had to do the study and we showed that when Coca-Cola is added in excess to human semen, it kills the sperm within one minute.

Ms. WAN HONG (Dr. Changya Hong's daughter): Hi. My dad would like to say thank you from Taipei, Taiwan. He can't be here today. But he says thanks for giving me an award that makes me look really, really cool in my daughter's eyes. And I would like to say thanks Mom and Dad for firmly believing it won't work and didn't try it, so I'm here today. It's precisely in 1984 that they tried. Thank you very much and congratulations to everybody. Thank you.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: We thought about having a demonstration. But instead, we're going to have a toast to the winners.

Unidentified Woman: A toast.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Hey, we'll try the skin. As you know, I am your v-chip monitor. Please listen carefully to the safety and recycling announcement. It is almost, I emphasized the almost, time to throw the paper airplanes. Remember what's important. Safety, accuracy, recycling, safety, and redundancy. If you have skill at paper airplane throwing, please aim at the recycling target, not the people, not at me, at the recycling target. It's right over there. Everyone else at least try to aim at the recycling target. Now, get ready to throw. On your marks, get ready, and keep throwing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now, it's time for the win-a-date with Benoit Mandelbrot contest. Here's Karen Hopkin to tell us about the prize.

Ms. HOPKIN: Thank you. Juliet had Romeo and Guinevere her Lancelot. If you win this contest, you'll take home Mandelbrot. Benoit Mandelbrot, he's the inventor of fractals. His work inspired an entire new branch of mathematics and some really funky t-shirts and coffee mugs. When he's not gazing at clouds or measuring the coastline of England, Professor Mandelbrot enjoys playing chess and telling economists, I told you so. If you like a touch of order in your chaos, then Mandelbrot has got what you want. Let's give a warm win-a-date welcome to Benoit Mandelbrot.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, let's see which lucky audience member will win a date with Benoit Mandelbrot. Once again, pick up your attractive, printed and now probably mangled program and look through it. If your program contains a picture of Benoit Mandelbrot strolling along the coastline of Britain, then you've won a date with Benoit Mandelbrot. Come on up and claim your prize.

Unidentified Woman: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Unidentified Woman: What do we do now?

Mr. ABRAHAMS: I guess in the spirit of redundancy, this winner also asked, what do we do now? Here, I can but suggest consult the previous winner. And also off-stage is probably a better idea than on. Congratulations to our winner and to our prize.

The economics prize, the Ig Nobel Economics Prize this year is awarded to Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber, and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings. Here are Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan.

Mr. GEOFFREY MILLER (Ig Nobel Prize Winner, Economics): When I first mentioned to my colleagues in the gentlemen's club that I was going to turn it into science, they laughed at me. And when I went to the university and said the same thing, a lot of people laughed at me. When I showed them the results, they quit laughing. All right, now, gentlemen, I'm not taking any applications for research assistants. And now, my colleague.

Mr. BRENT JORDAN (Ig Nobel Prize Winner, Economics): Scientists can learn a lot from lap dancers. Not just how to extract more money from students, politicians and university administrators, but also about human nature. I make about $70,000 a year teaching basic human sexuality to the earnest but often stoned youth of New Mexico.

A good lap dancer makes about a $140,000 a year giving remedial sex education to married but often tipsy middle-aged males. Yes, we know one technique the lap dancers don't, hierarchical linear modeling of time series data. Where they saw a random fluctuations in day to day earnings, we could see that their income peak just before ovulation of the point maximum fertility. So lap dancers now can schedule their work shifts to match their fertility and now make about $200,000 a year.

Unidentified Woman: Please stop, I'm bored. Please stop, I'm bored.

Mr. JORDAN: And we get the signal bell which is beyond all price. Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ABRAHAM: We have a demonstration.

(Soundbite of a horn)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ABRAHAM: The v-chip monitor has called off our demonstration.

(Soundbite of crowd booing)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow. This is Talk of the Nation Science Friday from NPR News. 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 are organized each year by the publishers of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can find out more about them at improbable.com.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: The Physics Prize, the Ig Nobel Physics Prize is awarded to Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Douglas Smith of the University of California San Diego for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots. Here is Dorian Raymer.

Mr. DORIAN RAYMER (Ig Nobel Prize Winner in Physics): I have to twitter really quick. Accepting Ig Nobel. Yeah. Does anyone know what Twitter is? What is Twitter? Sorry, it's kind of rude. We were supposed to have two people, Doug Smith is the other person but they thought that'd be kind of redundant. Anyways, it's a lot harder to talk when you're standing up here. I never thought that this would - well, never more than like two or three times thought that this would happen. But, it's kind of like that guy dan said, but it has. And - oh, yeah, I was going to say Doug was tied up, in a knot. Anyways, now that this has happened, I guess anything can happen, so thank you. And behalf of Doug, thank you too. I wish Doug the best. And if everything goes as planned, I will see you at the Oscars.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: And now Professor Helen Haste will give the traditional Ig Nobel goodbye, goodbye Speech.

Dr. HASTE: Goodbye, goodbye.

Mr. ABRAHAMS: Now, in behalf of the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard Computer Society and especially on behalf of us at the Annals of Improbable Research, thanks for coming tonight and please remember this final thought, if you didn't win an Ig Nobel Prize this year and especially if you did, better luck next year. Good night.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Redundancy, reduncancy, redundancy again. The (unintelligible) or you'll get stuck. Redundancy again. Redundancy, redundancy is our friend. Those extra bits have benefits upon which we depend. Redundancy, redundancy, with redundancy again. With (unintelligible) or you'll get stuck. Redundancy again. One more time. One more time. Redundancy, redundancy...

FLATOW: That's about all the time we have for today. We'd like to thank Mark Abrahams and the folks at the Annals of Improbable Research. Find out more online at improbable.com.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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