Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony returns Thursday to Harvard’s Sanders Theater, and the free Ig Informal Lectures are Saturday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 10 (that’s at 77 Massachusetts Ave., for the rest of us, in Room 250 at 1 p.m.).

But before the lectures there’s an even less formal stop on the Ig tour: Nobel and Ig Nobel laureates will be having a 10:30 a.m. breakfast at Toscanini’s Big Table, according to owner Gus Rancatore, a longtime backer and booster of the awards. It’s a good chance to come gawk at the smartest people in the world — and their tablemates, the winners of the Ig Nobels.

(In truth, some Ig winners are high achievers themselves, even if the awards started out in 1991 as rewarding scientific discoveries “that cannot, or should not, be reproduced.” Some Igs are given satirically, but some are just for the weird whose value hasn’t been determined, described as findings that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” For instance, last year the Ig in medicine went to a team determining high-priced fake drugs work better than low-cost fake drugs; the Ig for cognitive science recognized the discovery slime mold can solve puzzles. These could still be useful to humanity, right?)

The awards are always standing room only; the lectures — five minutes for each winner, with each getting a question-and-answer period — also fill in fast; and Toscanini’s Big Table is only so big. Act fast, before history eludes you. (There has been no award for efficient time travel.)