Feathers Fly at Ig Nobel Ceremony

The journal Annals of Improbable Research presented 10 Ig Nobel Prizes last night at its 13th First Annual Ig Nobel Ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The awards honored "achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced."

Many of the recipients traveled from other countries to be honored at the gala. The Physics Prize honorees hailed from Australia. Accepted by John Culnevor, an engineering consultant, the work demonstrated the "forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces"; the team found that it is easier to drag sheep downhill.

Stefano Ghirlanda won the Ig Nobel Prize in Interdisciplinary Research for work in which he and his colleagues at Stockholm University in Sweden determined that chickens prefer beautiful humans. The Chemistry Prize honored Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University in Japan, who found that pigeons avoided a bronze statue because the statue contained gallium.

Indeed, birds abounded at the chaotic event. The final bird award, however, was undoubtedly the most disturbing. C. W. "Kees" Moeliker, curator of the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam in the Netherlands, received the Biology Prize for documenting the first homosexual act of necrophilia among Mallard ducks. After witnessing for nearly 75 minutes a male Mallard rape another male that had flown into the museum's glass facade and fallen dead, Moeliker "couldn't stand it any longer," rescued the dead duck, and autopsied it to make sure it was male. "Nobody had ever seen and reported this activity in Mallards," Moeliker said. "I did."

The daft and lavish event at Harvard University was simultaneously broadcast in five languages, including "Administrative Jargon." Other highlights included the keynote address by Edward Murphy III, who also accepted the engineering award for his father, one of the founders of Murphy's Law, and a seven-word lecture on the human genome by Eric Lander, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research in Cambridge: "Genome. Bought the book, hard to read."

Related site
Details of this year's awards