Portrait of an Ig winner: Dr. Barss

He is a man with a mission – to alert peoples and societies to the potential of injuries that exists in our everyday life. From something so unexpected as a falling coconut (that can kill a man if it hits his head) to traffic mishaps to lifestyle choices, Dr Peter Barss of
the UAE University believes that caution should be our motto.

Do you live in a safe world? Obviously, you think this question is stupid. Look around you, you will retort. The wars, the upheavals, the conflicts, the violence… are these what happen in a safe world? Ah, but we are not talking about these dangers. We are talking of other kinds of dangers, dangers in which people don’t necessarily have to drop bombs or hurl missiles or wield machetes in order for others to get killed or hurt. Making the world unsafe are the oldest perils – nature, progress, human callousness and the unpredictability of the elements.

Imagine this: you are having a picnic in a coconut grove. Sitting under a coconut tree, picnic basket overflowing with goodies, the sun softly falling on your shoulders, you, your family and friends are filled with happiness that comes from a lazy weekend brunch. Suddenly, a fruit breaks free and falls on your head. Halfway through your cucumber and tomato sandwich, you are dead…

?excerpt from a November 16, 2001 report in The Gulf News about Dr. Peter Barss. Dr. Barss was awarded an Ig Nobel Medicine Prize for his medical report “Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts,” published in The Journal of Trauma, vol. 24, no. 11, 1984, pp. 990-1.

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