Ivory Towers: The IgNorance of Execution Methods

By Hartston, William | The Independent (London, England), January 5, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Ivory Towers: The IgNorance of Execution Methods


Hartston, William, The Independent (London, England)


THAT splendid publication, the Journal of Irreproducible Results, recently held its IgNobel Prize ceremony "for achievements that cannot, or should not, be reproduced". Named after Alfred Nobel's considerably lesser known and justly neglected brother, Ig, the IgNobel Prizes reward pioneering research in areas that other awards prefer to IgNore.

This year, they gave awards in 11 categories including Psychology (for a paper concluding that people who believe they were kidnapped by aliens from outer space are probably right), Biology (for a paper published in 1970 under the title "Salmonella Excretion in Joy-Riding Pigs) and Literature (for a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, which broke new ground by having 100 times as many authors as pages.

Robert Faid of Greenville, South Carolina, was elected the Mathematics IgNobel Laureate for calculating the exact odds that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist. (They are, for anyone interested, 8,606,091,751,882 - 1).

Our own favourite is the award for Visionary Technology to the inventors of a device that enables its owner to watch television while driving a car. The prize is shared by the Michigan State Legislature who, on 6 June 1991, passed a law making it legal to do so.

Regarding another award winner, the paper "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam", by Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal and Henry Wilde, in the American Journal of Surgery, 1983, we prefer not to go into details.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results may be obtained from: Wisdom Simulators, P O Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238, USA. An annual subscription costs $43 (or pounds 62 if you are a library).

None of the papers mentioned in that journal, however, have the terminally irreproducible significance of "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods" by Harold Hillman, which appeared in Perception 1993, Volume 22, pages 745 - 753.

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