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Nobel Prize Spoofs Awarded

October 5, 2000

BOSTON (AP) _ To keep cats from wandering across computer keyboards, deleting files and shedding between the keys, Chris Niswander created ``PawSense,″ a program that detects their presence and emits a sound to send them scurrying.

On Thursday, the Arizona man was awarded one of 10 annual ``Ig Nobel″ prizes for his efforts. The Harvard-based spoof of the real Nobel recognizes achievements that ``cannot or should not be reproduced.″

Niswander’s co-recipients include two physicists who used magnets to levitate a frog, an Australian author who believes people don’t need to eat, and a Canadian biologist who studied the tastiness of Costa Rican tadpoles.

``There are certain ideas that occur to only one person,″ said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Cambridge-based journal Annals of Improbable Research, part of the group that bestows Ig Nobels.

``To us, there was only one Einstein, there was only one Newton, and there is only one Niswander,″ he said.

The Ig Nobel winners are selected annually from thousands of nominations by a secret committee. Recipients of the real Nobel Prize were scheduled to present the awards Thursday at Harvard.

Those who worry the award will hurt their reputations can have it rescinded, but most get a kick out it, Abrahams said.

``We’d like to emphasize that science shouldn’t be boring,″ said physicist Andre Geim, who helped levitate the frog.

In chemistry, scientists from the University of Pisa and the University of California discovered that romantic love may be biochemically indistinguishable from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In public health, Scottish researchers Jonathan Wyatt, Gordon McNaught and William Tullet issued a report, ``The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow,″ examining the physical collapse of toilets after people sat on them.

Wyatt and McNaught were so pleased with the prize, they flew to Boston to accept it.

``We’re not insulted,″ Wyatt said. ``Between us, we’ve published more than 70 research papers. This is the only one that’s given us any publicity at all.″

No British Royal Navy officials planned to be on hand, despite a peace award for ordering that sailors in training shout ``Bang″ instead of using live cannon shells.

Korea’s Rev. Sun Myung Moon also wasn’t expected to show. He received an economics Ig Nobel for ``bringing efficiency and steady growth to the mass-marriage industry.″ Since 1960, Moon claims that his mass marriages have grown from 36 couples to 36 million in 1997.

Moon didn’t have a chance to refuse the award, Abraham said. ``We couldn’t get in touch with him,″ he said, ``so we don’t know his reaction.″


On the Net:

Annals of Improbable Research: http://www.improbable.com/

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