Sunday, May 26, 2024


Cambridge remains a seriously great place to take in funny science. The 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony is Thursday, and BAHFest returns in October.

The Ig Nobels, honoring achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think, have a food theme this year, and along with actual Nobel winners awarding the 10 prizes there will be the premiere of “What’s Eating You,” a mini-opera about people who decide to stop eating traditional food and instead get all their nutrients from pills, and a keynote address by Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu – the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition – who has photographed and retrospectively analyzed every meal he’s eaten for 43 years.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, “The Ig Nobel Cookbook, Vol. 1” has just come out, with recipes by Ig Nobel Prize winners and Nobel laureates. It’s co-written by Merry White, the Cantabrigian author of “Cooking for Crowds” and “Coffee Life in Japan.”

Ig Nobel winners are secret until the ceremony, but last year’s honorees included the Swedish, Australian, and South African scientists who discovered that lost dung beetles can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way; the French, Dutch, and American researchers who confirmed, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive; the Japanese doctors who measured the effect of listening to opera on heart transplant patients who are mice; and Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public – and for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

The Nobel laureates attending include Martin Chalfie (chemistry, 2008), Carol Greider (physiology or medicine, 2009), Dudley Herschbach (chemistry, 1986), Eric Maskin (economics, 2007) and Rich Roberts (physiology or medicine, 1993). One will be the prize in the Win-a-Date-with-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest.

The Igs’ 24/7 Lectures, in which speakers explain their subject first in 24 second, then in seven words, include White; Rob Rhinehart, founder of the Soylent food company; and Nobel laureates Chalfie, Greider and Maskin.

The Igs begin at 5:40 p.m. Thursday with a pre-ceremony concert and take place at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., near Harvard Square. Tickets run between $34.50 and $155.50, but the ceremony will also be broadcast live on the Internet – there are always webcast-watching parties around the world in countries with participants and where science is more celebrated – here and on various science-focused websites.

A related event will be held two days later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: The Ig Informal Lectures, a half-afternoon of short public talks by the new Ig Nobel Prize winners and by Nakamatsu. Admission is free, but seating is limited. The lectures are at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 26-100, also known as the Compton Laboratories, at 60 Vassar St.

Rest up and a month later you can stretch your brain again Oct. 19 at the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses – also known as BAH! – a hybrid of science and comedy founded at MIT last year that has grown to include a West Coast event Oct. 25.

In this festival, speakers present well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theories in front of a live audience and a panel of geeky judges. It is put on by Zach Weinersmith (the cartoonist behind the incredibly nerdy and hilarious webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal), breadpig (publishers of SMBC and the equally famous and funny XKCD), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lecture Series Committee. The winners will get $500, a signed SMBC Science book and a Darwin statue.

Ben Lillie of the Story Collider science story-telling podcast and event organization (there’s a Story Collider called “Survival of the Species” coming Sept. 23 to Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Harvard Square) returns as emcee for the show, and there will be a keynote address by Rob DenBleyker. Judges this year are Robin Abrahams, Tomer Ullman, Dr. Hopi Hoekstra and Dr. Dante Shepherd.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at Kresge Auditorium, 48 Massachusetts Ave. Tickets are $8 for students with a $1.43 online service fee, or $15 with a $1.82 service fee.

This post took significant amounts of material from press releases.