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Letter from a happy man

We have just received a letter signed by a Mr. Mark State of Toronto, Canada. It is a copy, Mr. State says, of a letter he sent to the British newspaper The Guardian in response to that newspaper’s October 5 report about the new Ig Nobel Prize winners, most of whom attended the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

We presume, but do not know for a fact, that this is the same Mark State who in 2006 campaigned, with some success, to be elected mayor of Toronto. Here is the full text of Mr. State’s letter:

MarkState.jpegCopy of letter to the editor, Guardian. Neither the Guardian nor anyone else looking forward to the awards had any idea of the true nature of the research involved before the ?recipients? explained themselves while being humiliated by you and your misdirected humour. It?s a lesson to all of us: don?t publish, or some jerk will make fun of you and your paper.

Re: It’s official: swallowing swords hurts your throat

Sure, spoofing is great fun. But these Spoof awards are going to genuine research. The titles and some of the contents seem silly at first glance, but the general unwashed public only gets that first glance, thanks to the careful way the awards group avoids actual information about the research. Even your reporter has been fooled into thinking that these areas of research are ?fluff?. This conclusion is probably erroneous. For example:

? Sheets wrinkle, and laundry chemical manufacturers pay huge money to universities for the ?now spoofed- research to find out why, so they can develop anti-wrinkle detergents, for example.
? Who can tell what is important about rats trained to human voice commands not being able to follow them backwards while researchers study their brainwave patterns upon reception of the unfamiliar commands, and how that might lead to ?now spoofed- aphasic pattern clarification and educational advances in human beings?
? Any librarian will tell you that cataloguing ?the? is a royal pain, and librarians worldwide will welcome a ?now spoofed- standard on the subject, as will editors and directory compilers, etc.
? And all the rest. You figure out what might really be going on?or perhaps look it up on the WWW using your favourite browser after you finish your chuckle about some title researchers didn?t think you?d ever know about when they were telling those who were interested what they were doing in the titles of their work.

I?m thinking that to make fun of these efforts is to belittle them unfairly. This is hurtful and insulting to the researchers; and might possibly do actual harm by inhibiting future grants. Not funny. Not funny at all. The IG really seems to stand for the IG Norant morons who are ?awarding? these prizes without thinking their consequences through.
I can think of one justified IG-Nobel award, however. The IG Nobel awards group itself would be a fitting recipient for the IG Nobel prize for humanitarianism.

Mark State
Toronto Ontario

PLEASE NOTE: the photo shown here is of the Mark State who campaigned to be mayor of Toronto. We do not know for certain whether he and the Mark State who wrote this letter are the same person.

UPDATE: The Las Vegas Sun, in an editorial on October 12, has a different take on the subject.

Improbable Research