Law-abiding beverage. Beer foam obeys the Law of Exponential Decay.

Not-so-Nobel Laureates

The sober and steady march of science took a silly step backward last night, when more than 1000 people crowded into the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to celebrate the 2002 Ig Nobel Prizes. The undistinguished winners traveled from four continents--at their own expense--to receive their awards from real Nobel laureates and give 60-second acceptance speeches.

The unlucky recipients of this year's biology prize were British researchers Norma Bubier, Charles Paxton, Phil Bowers, and D. Charles Deeming, for their work on courtship behavior of ostriches toward humans under farming conditions. K. P. Sreekumar received the mathematics prize for his work at India's Kerala Agricultural University on estimating the surface area of elephants. And the not-sought-after physics award went to Arnd Leike of the University of Munich, for demonstrating that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay.

In a bow to the increasingly connected nature of science, whether good or bad, Karl Kruszelnicki of Australia's University of Sydney received the interdisciplinary prize for his survey of belly button lint.

But there was entertainment at the gathering as well, including the staging of "The Jargon Opera” and a concert by the Brechtian-punk-physics band The Dresden Dolls. The event was produced by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) and co-sponsored by the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students. Marc Abrahams, master of ceremonies (and editor of AIR) closed the ceremony with his traditional remark: "If you didn't win an Ig Nobel Prize tonight--and especially if you did--better luck next year."

Related sites
Ig Nobel home page