Scientists often have the reputation for being humorless, so Marc Abrahams has made it a mission to celebrate research that has intrinsic comic value on top of its scientific worth. The Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, decided by an Improbable Research editorial board, is organized by Abrahams and held each year at Harvard, but you can hear Abrahams speak Dec. 10 at PINC Sarasota as a guest lecturer, where he will discuss the awards, and maybe even the science mini-operas he writes that premiere at the ceremony each year.
Some scientists are very concerned with their work being taken seriously. Why are you attracted to research that seems inherently funny? I like being surprised—seeing something so unexpected that it makes me laugh, and then makes me think about it.
What impact does laughing have on the attention people pay to research and how they regard the findings? If you see something so funny that you’re laughing about it, you are paying attention to it. Most scientific reports—hey, most reports about anything other than science, too—get almost no attention from anyone. When people start paying attention to something, then maybe they will think about that thing, and maybe find out a little more about it, and then make their own decision about whether that thing is good or bad.
Does one need a solid grounding in science or in opera to enjoy a science mini-opera? Nope! You just have to have ears that work. And if you also have eyes that work, all the better!