New Scientist, October 1999
Feedback (9 October) is delighted with my Ig Nobel prize for the physics of biscuit dunking. So am I. As I pointed out in my acceptance speech at Harvard, this was the first British win at a Boston Tea Party for over two hundred years.
A high point of the ceremony was supposed to be the descent of a huge biscuit into a tap-dancing teacup. Unfortunately the biscuit missed, rather spoiling the joke.
Without wishing to trample on that joke myself, I must point out that Feedback, too, has missed the target by failing to mention the main point of the Ig Nobels, which is to “spur interest in science”.
One way in which they do this is to bring attention to some of the silly things that are done in the name of science. Another way, spelt out on the Ig Nobel website, is to “honor the unusual and the imaginative”. Half of the prizes are awarded in each category.
I leave it to readers to judge what category my work falls into. To give a clue, its sole intent was to make science more accessible by presenting a commonplace activity in scientific terms. Judging from the resultant publicity, the intention seems to have been fulfilled.
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