Ig Nobel Prize Tour of the UK 2003

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2003 Ig™ Nobel Prize Tour
for the UK's National Science Week

The first annual Ig Nobel Tour of the UK was a rousing success. A merry band of Ig Nobel Prize winners joined Marc Abrahams (editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and master of ceremonies of the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony) in barnstorming six cities in eight days. We were joined by competitors for the title of "Britain's Most Succinct Scientist." The London show, on March 6, also featured jazz singer Sandra Lawrence and pianist Phil Mead performing songs from Ig Nobel operas; they were accompanied by a chorus of scientists-turned-insects. Here are a few quick highlights from the tour.(And click here to see one observer's reaction to the London show.)


Ig Nobel Prize winners Sir Michael Berry (left -- 2000 Physics Prize, shared with Andre Geim, for using magnets to levitate a frog) and Len Fisher (1999 Physics Prize, for devising the optimal way to dunk a biscuit) field questions from the audience. Berry, Fisher, and three other Ig Nobel Prize winners each gave five-minute lecture-demonstrations. Each was attempting, to the extent possible, to explain what they did and why. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)

Other winners delivering talks included Charles Paxton and Charles Deeming (2002 Biology Prize for their (with two other co-authors) report "Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches Towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain"); Robert Matthews (1996 Physics Prize for his studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side); Andre Geim, who shared the 2000 Physics Prize with Michael Berry; Chris McManus (2002 Medicine Prize for his excruciatingly balanced report, "Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Sculpture"); Gordon McNaughton (2000 Medicine Prize for his (and two other co-authors') alarming report, "The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow"; and Harold Hillman (1995 Peace Prize for his report "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods."


The 2003 Tour Specifics

WHEN: Friday, March 7-Friday, March 14, 2003.

WHAT: Six shows in six cities in eight days, as part of National Science Week.

WHERE: London (Institution of Electrical Engineers) / Manchester (University of Manchester) / Edinburgh (Royal College of Surgeons) / Leicester (University of Leicester) / Bristol (@Bristol) / Oxford (University of Oxford)

SPONSORED BY: The Times Higher Education Supplement and The British Association for the Advancement of Science.

PRESS CONTACT: Sonya Allen. +44 (0) 20 7782 3395 <[email protected]>.

NEXT YEAR: We will be doing it again in March 2004, for Nation Science Week. If you would like to have your institution host one of the events on the 2004 tour, please get in touch with Marc Abrahams at <[email protected]> or with Annette Smith at the BA <[email protected]>


Jazz singer Sandra Lawrence and pianist Phil Mead performed arias from several Ig Nobel mini-operas. Here Lawrence assumes the role of the sultry cockroach from "Lament Del Cockroach." Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


A swarm of Britain's most distinguished scientists and science journalists assumes the role of insects who are abjectly and hopelessly yearning to mate with the sultry cockroach. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


The sign heralding the competiton to find Britain's Most Succinct Scientist. Scientists, both profession and amateur, from throughout Britain competed. Each competitor submitted two brief lectures about his or her subject -- first a complete technical description in twenty-four (24) seconds, and then a clear summary that ANYONE could understand, in seven (7) words. The most promising entrants were selected to perform at one or another of the shows on the tour. (Click here to see the winner of the competition in Manchester.) In each city, a regional winner was selected, and the overall winner was later chosen from amongst the select group of regional winners. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


Robert Matthews, winner of the 1996 Ig Nobel Physics Prize at the London show. Here he is seen here competing for the title of Britain's Most Succinct Scientist. (This was in addition to his lecture about how he won an Ig Nobel Prize.) Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


The finalists for "Most Succinct Scientist" each performed live at one of the shows -- with one exception. Sir David King, the UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, was called away to an emergency meeting; and so he was given a special dispensation to deliver his 24-second and 7-word lectures via videotape. Here his image is seen as it was projected for the audience. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


The regional winner in London received his "Most Succinct Scientist" lab coat and certificate. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


At the London show, Ig Nobel Physics Prize co-winner Michael Berry demonstrated the physics underlying the magnetic levitation of a frog. A magnified television image of the apparatus is projected for the audience. Berry also did this demonstration at the Bristol show. His co-winner, Andre Geim, performed at the Manchester show. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)


The notorious Oxford Bell, one of the world's longest-running experiments, happened to be located just outside the auditorium where the Oxford Ig show was held. Photo: Alasdair Kergon. (Click on image to enlarge it)