BAD SCIENCE AND HUMOROUS RESEARCH SKEWERED 
AT THE IG NOBEL AWARDS

By Sheila Gibson

Deepak Chopra, homeopathic researcher Jacques Benveniste,
and Therapeutic Touch founder Dolores Krieger got Igged
this year, and prominent skeptics James Randi and Emily
Rosa were part of the festivities.

The Ig Nobel awards, given by the science humor magazine
Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) are awarded to the
perpetrators of dubious scientific achievements which
"cannot or should not be reproduced."

Benveniste won the 1998 Chemistry prize, making him the
first double Ig winner in the history of the awards. His
discovery that the information contained in homeopathic
water can be transmitted over telephone lines and the
Internet put him into a class of his own in the opinion of
the Ig Nobel committee.

Chopra won the 1998 Physics Prize for his "unique
interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness." (See also
Skeptic, Volume 6, Number 2.) Krieger won the Science
Education award for "demonstrating the merits of
therapeutic touch, a method by which nurses manipulate the
energy fields of ailing patients by carefully avoiding
physical contact with those patients."

Randi and Rosa, fresh from their appearance on John
Stossel's ABC special "The Power of Belief" two days
earlier, were on stage as honored "Ignitaries" throughout
the lively ceremony.

Randi, recovering well following a recent heart operation,
gave a Heisenberg Certainty Lecture. Lecturers can lecture
on any topic they choose, so long as they finish in 30
seconds. Randi chose to speak about the still-unclaimed $1
million prize offered by his namesake educational
foundation and the lack of takers.

"Do you hear anyone knocking at the door? Hark, I didn't
think so. Come get your prize!" he roared from the
podium. Ever the showman, he finished within the alloted
time.

Jr. Skeptic cover girl Rosa, 11, gave one of the two
keynote addresses, and earned a standing ovation from the
crowd. She also accepted the Science Education Ig on
behalf of the absent Dolores Krieger. Krieger founded the
practice of Therapeutic Touch, which Rosa authoritatively
debunked in her now- famous experiment, the results of
which were published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA.)

"I learned a lot about science, and I only spent 10
dollars," she said during her keynote address to huge
howls of approval from the crowd. Noting that Krieger
founded TT in 1972, Rosa said "Fifteen years before I was
born, [she] was working on my first big break. I can't
thank you enough, Dr. Krieger."  (See also Skeptic and
Jr. Skeptic, V. 6, #2.) This was the first Ig ceremony for
Rosa and Randi. "I was just thrilled to see Deepak,
Dolores Krieger, and Jacques [Benveniste] get the prize,"
Randi said following the awards, adding he "had a
wonderful time and really enjoyed it," and commended AIR
editor Marc Abrahams the Ig staff for their hard work. But
he also admitted to a "soft spot for the grizzly man."

Grizzly bear researcher Troy Hurtubise won an Ig for
Safety Engineering for his obsessive quest to build the
perfect suit of armor so he could safelyapproach and study
grizzly bears. Films were shown at the ceremony of
Hurtubise personally testing his suit by being attacked
with baseball bats and bullets and taking the full force
of a 3-ton truck traveling at 50 kilometers an hour as
well as a 50-pound log. Hurtubise has adapted his suit for
commercial use by firemen, bomb squad members, riot
controllers, and volcano scientists.

"That's real science," Randi said of Hurtubise's passion,
noting that many of the world's most valuable discoveries
were research byproducts or pure accidents. "I wouldn't
mind having some of the income on his patents."

The 1998 Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday, Oct. 8 at
Harvard's Sanders Theater, before a lively paper-airplane
throwing, good-humored crowd of 1,200.  A full report on
the festivities will follow in a future issue of
Skeptic. The AIR web site is at www.improbable.com. Its
e-mail address is [email protected]

The full list of 1998 winners follows:

SAFETY ENGINEERING: Troy Hurtubise, of North Bay, Ontario,
Canada, for developing and personally testing a suit of
armor that is impervious to grizzly bears.

BIOLOGY: Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams
by giving them Prozac.

PEACE: Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India
and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan for their
aggressively peaceful explosions of atomic bombs.

CHEMISTRY: Jacques Benveniste of France for his
homeopathic discovery that not only does water have
memory, but that the information can be transmitted over
telephone lines and the Internet. [Benveniste also won the
1991 Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize.]

SCIENCE EDUCATION: Dolores Krieger, Professor Emerita, New
York University, for demonstrating the merits of
therapeutic touch, a method by which nurses manipulate the
energy fields of ailing patients by carefully avoiding
contact with those patients.

STATISTICS: Jerald Bain of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto
and Kerry Siminoski of the University of Alberta for their
carefully measured report, The Relationship Among Height,
Penile Length, and Foot Size.

PHYSICS: Deepak Chopra of The Chopra Center for Well
Being, La Jolla, California, for his unique interpretation
of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of economic happiness.

ECONOMICS: Richard Seed of Chicago for his efforts to
stoke up the world economy by cloning himself and other
human beings.

MEDICINE: To Patient Y and to his doctors, Caroline Mills,
Meirion Llewelyn, David Kelly, and Peter Holt, of Royal
Gwent Hospital, in Newport, Wales, for the cautionary
medical report, A Man Who Pricked His Finger and Smelled
Putrid for 5 Years.

LITERATURE: Dr. Mara Sidoli of Washington, D.C., for her
illuminating report, Farting as a Defence Against
Unspeakable Dread.

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Sheila Gibson is a full-time journalist and has been a
full-time skeptic since she was four. She graduated cum
laude in 1994 from the magazine journalism program at
Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications in
Syracuse, N.Y. She is also the events coordinator for the
New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and a frequent
contributor to the New England Journal of Skepticism. The
NESS web site is at www.theness.com. She is an unrepentant
carnivore. Her theme song is Brass in Pocket by the
Pretenders. She does not care what you think of her. She
can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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