Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: Not the Nobel Prize winners

The latest challenge was to supply an extract from an Ig Nobel Prize-winner’s speech that describes the ‘achievement’ (invented by you) being honoured. The Igs are spoof awards handed out annually at Harvard for scientific achievements that manage to be both hilarious and thought-provoking. In 2014’s Neuroscience category, for example, the award was scooped by Jiangang Liu et al. for their contribution to our understanding of what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast. And just last month, Egyptian urologist Ahmed Shafik was honoured in this year’s Reproduction category for his work testing the effects of wearing various fabrics on the sex life of rats. (The rodents wearing the polyester slacks were found to have ‘significantly lower’ rates of sexual activity.) Moving across to the field of psychology, Evelyne Debey and colleagues were recognised for research that involved asking a thousand liars how often they lie and deciding whether to believe their answers. And in the area of economics, Mark Avis et al. nabbed the laurels for their invaluable research into the perceived personalities of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective. This proved to be a tricky assignment and produced a smallish entry. Two evidently like-minded competitors, Jamie Burnham and Alex Gleick, made references in their submissions to both ursine faeces and the Pope. Warm commendations go to Peter Ridley, Michael Copeman and Robert A. McWhirter, who were unlucky to miss out on a spot on the winners’ podium. The prizewinners, printed below, are rewarded with £35 each.

D.A. Prince The prevalence of dismissive articles in non-scholarly media in no way diminishes my appreciation of this Ig Nobel Award for the rôle of crossword techniques in marriage guidance. Recruiting study groups, matched both for crossword-solving level and potential marital stability/instability, initially raised a plethora of questions: how to cope with ‘mixed-ability’ marriages and dominance; methodology for compensating for the inherent smugness of the ‘cryptic’ solvers over the ‘quick’; whether the use of online anagram solvers was an avoidance strategy for conflict resolution; should crossword ‘addiction’ in one partner be addressed in co-counselling or via a help group; the definition of ‘general knowledge’ and its relevance.

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