Dispatches From the Field
AAAS 2000 Annual Meeting

Improbable Science Humor - Feb. 20, 2000

By Lisa Strong

Tea HatI have a song stuck in my head; it's just one refrain, but it keeps replaying. I heard it at a AAAS session Friday night -- an operatic performance by a hoarse soprano. "DNAaaaaaaaaaay!" [Real Audio clip]

This wasn't your average scientific session. It was more like a hybrid stand-up routine, musical review, and variety show about science and pseudo-science. But what could I really expect from the publisher of the Annals of Improbable Research?

Virginia Suite A at the Marriott Hotel was packed. Every seat was occupied. People sprawled on the floor; crowds jammed the doorways. Paper airplanes crisscrossed the room. Who would have recognized this rowdy crowd as the serious and decorous scientists, educators, and journalists who listening politely at the day-time science talks?

The editor and comedic brains behind the Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams, emceed the evening, recounting the highlights of the 9th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and introducing songs and other zany science humor.

For a full dose of the Annals of Improbable Research, check out their web site, www.improbable.com. For some highlights of Friday evening, and a couple of winners for 1999, read on.

(The links below require a free Real player. Get one here.)

  • In his own, dry way, Marc Abrahams answers the question: What exactly are the Ig Nobel Prizes? [Real Audio clip]

  • The Ig Nobel Prize for Environmental Protection goes to: Hyuk-ho Kwon, Kolon Company, Seoul, South Korea for inventing the first self-perfuming business suit. Marc Abrahams wore one of these suits Friday night and invited those interested to try it out. The suit must be rubbed vigorously to get the full minty effect. [Real Video clip]

  • Ig Nobel Prizes for Science Education go to: Kansas Board of Education and Colorado State Board of Education, USA for banning Charles Darwin.

    Cat and Bearded Man
  • Abrahams described another study found in the pages of the Annals of Improbable Research, a fascinating look at Feline Reactions to Bearded Men. After months of work, the researchers concluded that cats are indifferent to pictures of bearded men.

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