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A Nobel Prize for noble work

Looks like I'll be filling this space for another year, at least.

Once again, the geniuses at the MacArthur Foundation rejected my carefully worded self-nomination for a $625,000 fellowship to study the effects of binge spending on self-absorbed, late middle-aged white American male journalists.

Perhaps my proposed study sample of one test subject was deemed too small to produce reliable scientific results. Or maybe it's simply a matter of the MacArthur awards committee being unfamiliar with, or possibly overwhelmed by, my bloated body of work as a bush league columnist.

Whatever the reason for the slip-up, I graciously salute this year's winning crop of behavioral economists, medieval historians, agricultural ecologists and their ilk, and vow to redouble my self-promotion efforts next year.

I'd have a better chance of winning a MacArthur genius grant if someone over there created a spin-off program similar to the annual Ig Nobel Prize awards that honor achievements "that first make people laugh, and then make them think," according to its website.

Among this year's Ig Nobel Prize winners was a group of researchers from France, the United States, the Netherlands and Poland, who took top honors in the psychology division for scientifically confirming that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

The research, carried out in a bar, involved nearly 100 participants in a bogus taste-test in which some were given drinks containing alcohol, while others were given placebos on the rocks. After consuming the drinks, participants were asked to give talks on how bright, funny and attractive they thought they were. Not surprisingly, test subjects who thought they had consumed alcohol gave themselves more positive evaluations.

Results were published in the British Journal of Psychology under the headline "Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder."

I can only speculate, but I suspect there was a positive correlation between the volume of positive self-evaluations and the proximity of closing time.

This year's Ig Nobel Prize in safety engineering went to inventor Gustano Pizzo of Jackson Heights, N.Y., for a patented electro-mechanical system to trap would-be airline hijackers.

According to the abstract in Pizzo's patent application, his device involves a partition "immediately aft of the pilot's cabin that is adapted to be raised, dividing the aft section longitudinally into port and starboard areas, the floors of which are dropped on command to lower a hijacker into a capsule in the belly of the plane. The capsule is releasable through opened bomb bay doors having attached thereto a parachute for safely returning the hijacker within the capsule to earth."

It's that kind of visionary thinking that leaves me humbled and inspired to produce work worthy of such recognition -- preferably recognition that involves a cash prize large enough to pay for and fuel a large self-contained research vehicle, or RV.

I'll need it to bring my work to the masses, or at least to the better trout streams across North America.

 


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