The medical effects of sword swallowing, perused

Jennifer Ouellette looks deep into the sword-swallowing and medical adventures of Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Meyer, in her essay in Cocktail Party Physics. She begins:

By the Sword: The Science of Sword-Swallowing

A couple of weeks ago, new media mogul Arianna Huffington had an unusual experience: assisting veteran sword swallower Dan Meyer, who was visiting the Huffington Post headquarters in New York City.Meyer heads the Sword Swallowers Association International, based in Antioch, Tennessee. He’s a five-time Guiness Book of World Record Holder, and has appeared on America’s Got Talent. He made it to the finals despite having a visibly squicked-out David Hasselhoff pull the plug halfway through Meyer’s audition performance.

But we’re sure he’s most proud of his 2007 Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine, which he shared with Brian Witcombe, a consulting radiologist at Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust in England. They were honored “for their penetrating medical report, ‘Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects,’” which was published to almost no fanfare in the British Medical Journal — maybe because it appeared right around Christmas and people were too busy swallowing Yorkshire pudding and opening prezzies to pay much attention to the findings….

BONUS: The photo below, taken at the 2007 ceremony, Dan Meyer punctuating his and Brian Witcombe’s joint one-minute-long acceptance speech. Meyer and Dr. Witcombe (who is not visible in this photo, having stepped back to give his colleague breathing room) were honored for studying the medical side-effects of sword-swallowing. Nobel Laureates William Lipscomb, Robert Laughlin and Dudley Herschbach can be seen here analyzing Mr. Meyer’s speech. Photo Credit: Alexey Eliseev.

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