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Award Given to Frivolous Research Projects

Every September, 1,100 well-dressed guests gather at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre, a building crafted with ornate woodwork and golden pillars, for an unusual ceremony. Launched in 1991 by science/humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, the "Ig Nobel" awards (a parody of the Nobel Prize) recognizes ten dubious "achievements" per year for their shallow, obvious, or outlandish research focus or titles. Here's a sample of past Ig Nobel winners (and keep in mind that these were serious, funded research projects):

  • The 1996 award winner in physics was Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for studying Murphy's Law, and particularly for showing that toast often falls on the buttered side.
  • 1999 also in the physics category, an award was given to Dr. Len Fisher of Sydney, Australia for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.
  • 2000 in computer science Chris Niswander of Tucson, Arizona received an award for inventing PawSense, software designed to detect when a cat walks across your computer keyboard.
  • 2001 Biology: Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado for inventing Under-Ease, a brand of underwear with a built-in, replaceable charcoal filter that deodorizes flatulence before it is released into the atmosphere.
  • 2002 mathematics: two researchers from India for their paper entitled "Estimation of the Total Surface Area in Indian Elephants."
  • 2014 in Medicine: a team of four scientists for researching how to treat nosebleeds by packing the nasal lining with strips of cured pork.
  • Also in 2014 for physics: a team of four researchers for measuring the friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin on the floor.

Possible Preaching Angle: (1) Priorities; Values; False Teaching; Idols; Idolatry—What are the things (ideas, priorities, false teachings, values) we give our time and attention that are in the end absolutely trivial? (2) Wisdom; Foolishness—It also shows the difference between "knowledge" (a bunch of facts) and "wisdom" (right living). (3) Legacy—What kind of legacy are you leaving behind? Is your life filled with trivial pursuits?

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