‘Genitalia Are A Punch And Judy Show’, says Schilthuizen

Ig Nobel 24/7 Lectures, Leiden [photo Kees Moeliker]This picture, taken at the recent ‘Ig Nobel 24/7 Battle’ in Leiden, The Netherlands, needs some explanation. Here is the explanation:

Professor Menno Schilthuizen, the man standing at right, is just about to start his 24/7 Lecture. He holds two hand puppets, which did the talking [in Dutch]. The person in the middle is Frank van Rooij. He acts as a ‘human pedestal’. On the left, referee Maarten Keulemans (science editor of De Volkskrant) is holding a whistle and checking time.

Menno Schilthuizen was elected the winner in this competition between six prominent Dutch scientists. Each gave a 24/7 Lecture, in which she or he explained her or his subject twice, first: a complete technical description in twenty-four (24) seconds, and then: a clear summary that anyone can understand, in seven (7) words. This modern science-communication concept — the 24/7 Lecture — dates back to the early years of the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

This is Professor Schilthuizen’s winning 24/7. He presented it in the form of a dialogue between two hand-puppets about ‘Evolutie van genitalia’ [Evolution of genitalia]:

[24 seconds] “Snelle, stochastische morfologische evolutie van mannelijke genitaliën kan gedreven worden door cryptische postcopulatoire seksuele selectie door het vrouwtje op basis van genitale ornamentatie.” “Niettegenstaande dat, kan interseksuele competitie waarbij mannelijke manipulatie een fitness-verlagend effect bij het vrouwtje heeft eveneens leiden tot zulke vormdiversiteit.”
[7 words] Tussen de benen staat een evolutie-poppenkast!

[English translation, which might take more, or perhaps little less, than 24 seconds] “Rapid, stochastic morphological evolution of male genitalia may be driven by cryptic postcopulatory sexual selection by females on the basis of genital ornamentation. Notwithstanding this, intersexual competition in which male manipulation has a fitness-reducing effect in the female, likewise may result in such diversity of form.”
[7 words] Genitalia Are A Punch And Judy Show

By winning this competition, Professor Schilthuizen earned  an invitation to deliver a 24/7 Lecture at the Nederlandse Ig Nobel Night on September 14th in Leiden.

BONUS: Menno Schilthuizen has just finished writing 82,000 words on the subject of evolution of genitals. His book, provisionally titled ‘Darwins peep show’, will be published by Penguin in 2014.

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