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Daftness rewarded during National Science Week

All hail the Ig Nobel prizes

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Today marks the start of National Science Week, which, rather bizarrely, lasts for nine days.

The highlight of the event will be the Ig Nobel Prizes tour. This acknowledges and applauds the daftest scientific research in the country. An Ig Nobel prize is awarded for work that "cannot or should not be reproduced".

The Annals of Improbable Research, which judges the prize giving, advises readers to "examine that phrase carefully. It covers a lot of ground. It says nothing as to whether a thing is good or bad, commendable or pernicious".

Previous Daft Science Laureates include John Culvenor and his team who spent valuable time putting together an analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces; a team at University College London for presenting evidence that the brains of London taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of their fellow citizens; and the psychologists at the University of Rome for the wonderful paper entitled: "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities".

Special mention must also go to John Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, New York City. He has published over 80 papers on the little things that annoy him, to wit: What percentage of young people wear baseball caps with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front?; What percentage of pedestrians wear sport shoes that are white rather than some other color?; What percentage of swimmers swim laps in the shallow end of a pool rather than the deep end?; What percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket's express checkout lane?; and the seminal What percentage of students dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts?

There also is a 24/7 competition, in which scientists must try to explain their work in 24 seconds, and seven words. Last year's winner produced the following corker:"Cryptosporidium means a fortnight on the loo!" Marvellous stuff.

National Science Week is an excuse to celebrate science and its importance in our lives. Organiser-boffins at the British Association for the Advancement of Science are putting on a whole load of events to give people the chance to have a go at science: to take part in experiments and to engage in science discussions in their local area. Go to it. ®

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