Just for Fun: The 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes

Just for Fun: The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, having been amused by the inanity of some theology dissertation or religion blog, the Ig Nobel Foundation comes along and raises the bar on inanity. The Ig Nobel prizes are given by Annals of Improbable Research which honors “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Don Troop writes an article on this year’s Ig Nobel prize winners in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct 7, 2011).

Troop headlines the article with an exploration of John R. Perry’s Ig Nobel prize for his article on “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” in which he argues that “the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely, and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.” Dr. Perry is an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University. Troop reports that “Perry advises procrastinators to make a list of the many things they hope to accomplish, and then place a goal like ‘Learn Chinese’ at the very top. ‘You have to have good self-deceptive skills,’ he said. ‘That’s key.'”

Other Ig Nobel prize winners include:

Anna Wilkinson (University of Lincoln) and co-authors, for their paper, “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise,” Current Zoology (2011)

Arturas Zuokas (Mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania) “for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.”

Makoto Imai (Shiga University of Medical Science) and co-authors for their research demonstrating “the ideal density of airborne wasabi (a pungent horseradishlike condiment) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm”

Luk Warlop (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium) and other researchers for their multiple papers “demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things, when they have a strong urge to urinate.” Papers published in Psychological Science (May 2011) and Neurology and Urodynamics (Jan 2011). Seriously.

Daryll T. Gwynne (University of Toronto-Mississauga) for his discovery “that certain kinds of beetles mate with certain kinds of Australian beer bottles.” Australian Journal of Entomology (1983).

Karl Halvor Teigen (University of Oslo), for his article “Is a Sigh ‘Just a Sigh’? Sighs as Emotional Signals and Responses to a Difficult Task,” in Scandanavian Journal of Psychology (2008).

This is not, I repeat not, a parody. I’m hoping that this research is helpful in some way for somebody, but until that can be proven, I don’t see the need for it any more than I do for wrapping my head in asbestos or wearing a tutu.

The Lonely Planet Guide to Faculty Fashion & Apparel

Only a person with a petrified diaphragm could fail to laugh out loud at Kerry Soper’s “RateMyProfessor’sAppearance.com” in the September 17 (2010) issue of The Chronicle Review. In the brief little satire, Soper refers to one of the “rate your professor” websites which allows students to rate their professor’s class performance as well as their appearance. The student is allowed to place an icon of a chili pepper beside a professor who is particularly good looking. Soper bemoans the fact that “it is unfair that only the few youthful, freakishly good-looking faculty members among us get all of those chili-pepper accolades” and proposes that the students also be allowed to reward their professors with any of twelve “consolation icons.”

Soper’s real game is to poke a little fun at university culture and the eccentricities it produces. So, just for fun, I thought I’d mention a few of Soper’s icons and their descriptions (several of which would not find an analog on an SBC seminary campus, you’ll notice) for those who would like to take a stroll down (college) memory lane.

One of Soper’s icons is The Pocket Protector, representing a professorial style that I suspect is represented on every college and seminary campus. In clicking on this metaphorical icon, a student is “congratulating a professor on being unabashedly (or unconsciously) nerdy in his or her appearance: ‘It’s clear that you just don’t care, and that’s awesome. We get a kick out of your functional polyester slacks; limp, faded shirts; and grimy, heavy-framed glasses. Don’t change! We feel comforted knowing that none of your valuable research and class-prep time is eaten up with frivolous concerns over wearing same-colored socks, changing your pants every day, or taking any extra time to match up the buttons with the proper buttonholes in that threadbare shirt.”

Another icon is The Bow Tie: “This is for professors determined to maintain an ivory-tower dress code established in a previous century. The student is saying, ‘Yes, that stuffy little bow tie looks ridiculous on your portly frame; your frumpy oxford shirts are stained and frayed; and I have never seen a jacket that is so depressingly brown and textured. Nevertheless, your stereotypically fussy sense of style does help me feel like I’m getting my money’s worth as a college student.'”

A third icon may not find a referent on an evangelical seminary campus, but packs a wicked punch on most university campuses. By giving the professor The Espresso Cup, the student is saying, “I can see that you have a coherent style going on there: an array of black and gray clothing that has a vague, critical-theory hipness to it. And good job on finding the right kind of severe glasses and retro haircut to fit the look. Personally, I find the aesthetic dull and pretentious, but it is fun to see you strike self-conscious poses at the whiteboard, like some kind of morose poet in a Sears catalog for existentialists.”

A fourth professorial style is represented by The Half-Eaten Protein Bar: This is a student’s way of saying: “You may not be an especially attractive human being, but it does appear that you spend a lot of time at the gym attempting to get into shape. God job, in other words, for trying. Yes, you may have weird hair, lame clothes and dorky glasses, but I’m sure that somewhere under the extra 15 pounds you’ve accumulated over the years, there must be some nicely sculpted delts and pecs.”

A fifth style is what Soper calls The Pressed Flower: by choosing this icon, the student is saying that “it looks as if you may have been hip and attractive at one point in your life. And guessing from your big hair, lavender pantsuit with the puffy should pads, and bright pumps, that year was probably 1986. Thank you for preserving this historical look for future generations.” (Soper should be careful on this one, as he might find himself ducking to avoid an incoming pair of 1986 pumps aimed at his melon.)

A sixth icon is The Harmonica: This is for the securely upper-middle-class prof who enjoys wearing faux working-class garb: scuffed leather boots, aged denim, faded T-shirts, and Teamster-style plaid button-ups. Students can say: “We don’t get your fetish for all things Springsteen, and your folksy, left-leaning political references are about 40 to 50 years out of date, but we appreciate the laid-back, democratic ambiance you bring to the class. Indeed, it makes it difficult for you to say no to our requests for grade adjustments when you find out that we, too, are from humble, working-class roots.”

A final icon is The Power Tie: “This is for the prof who seems to belong (or perhaps has once belonged) in corporate America rather than academe. The student is saying, ‘You must be a misguided Republican adjunct-a refugee from the downsized business world-or some kind of weird, moonlighting administrator. How else to explain the worn-out black dress shoes, Brooks Brothers shirts with the frayed collars, silk ties that were fashionable maybe 10 years ago, and that heavily gelled hair? Nice job on keeping me distracted from your dry lectures with this fashion conundrum.'”

Well, I hope Soper’s icons provided a little bit of levity to your day. I left out five of his icons (The Pizza Slice, The Lump of Tofu, The Cassava Root, The Pina Colada with a Little Umbrella, and The Crystal) and I cannot imagine how many extra icons our readership could provide based on their college careers. However, I am confident that the seven icons bring all of us some retrospective clarity to our former lives as college students and bring some of us present-day clarity about ourselves and our colleagues.

Check Out Our Personal Websites

You may not know this, but most of our contributors have personal websites in addition to Between the Times. All of the websites offer a number of resources, and many of them have blogs.

Of course the reason most people read BtT is for Dr. Akin’s articles, but did you know he also has a personal website with hundreds of sermons, Bible studies, and other resources? Check out DanielAkin.com, but remember not to pass off one of Dr. Akin’s pulpit gems as your own. Congregations can spot a contraband Akin sermon a mile away.

Most of you are probably already aware that two of our contributors, Ed Stetzer and J.D. Greear, are really rockstar bloggers who subcontract with us from time to time. In fact, Ed often claims to actually run the Obama Administration, General Electric, and Midwestern Seminary from his personal website. J.D. isn’t quite so bold, but he does occasionally stir up controversy at his blog.

Alvin Reid has been blogging for quite a while, and we all agree that he has the most sophisticated website of any of our contributors. With audio, blogging, and even free E-books, this website has it all. If the 1950s ever make a comeback, they won’t know what to do with all of Alvin’s technology.

Some of our contributors have just launched personal websites in the past few months. Ken Keathley blogs at Theology for the Church; Ken’s just tickled pink that God has ordained a world where he gets to write about Molinism and other theological topics near and dear to his heart. While not a regular contributor, Steve McKinion’s been around enough lately that giving a shout out to Gospel-Centered Living just seems like the Christian thing to do. Be sure to take note of Steve’s scholarly sidebar picture.

I’m the most recent BtT contributor to add a personal website, thus returning to my pre-2008 roots as a solo blogger. One Baptist Perspective is not nearly as cool as Alvin’s website, but then church historians aren’t nearly as cool as evangelism professors. It’s our little cross to bear.

Now I know what you are thinking–what about Bruce Ashford? It’s a good question. I originally didn’t think he had a personal blog, but after doing a Google search I found Bruce’s website. While the writing isn’t always the most sophisticated, Bruce does get more traffic than the rest of us. Even Ed.