I went with my family to the annual Ig Nobel Awards last night. The Ig Nobels, honoring scientific achievements "that cannot or should not be reproduced," are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of The Annals of Improbable Research, a humor magazine that is somehow related to the old Journal or Irreproducible Results. (AIR's free newsletter is quite funny.)
I'd been to an Ig Nobels about eight years ago and it is as studiously zany as ever, from the continuous fusillade of paper airplanes showering the stage to the ostensibly sweet 11 year old who serves as time monitor by repeating "Please stop. I'm bored" monotonously until the offender steps away from the microphone.
The awards themselves are very funny, and because they come from the scientific community — genuine Nobelists escort the winners to the lectern — they're not offensive the way Sen. Proxmire's Golden Fleece awards often were. The winners, who fly in from around the world at their own expense, are uniformly good natured as they deliver brief acceptance speeches that are typically pun-heavy as mocking slides are displayed behind them.
So, we had some laughs. But mainly I thought my family would enjoy the sudden immersion in the world of seriously geeky scientists at play. Entertainment or anthropology field trip? You be the judge.