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Funny Books - The Ignobel Prizes


Marc Abrahams
Orion Books 2002
500 pages

Sometimes you feel like a fun read. Something light, fun to read, funny, and yet instructive (well, sometimes instructive does not enter into it). Fans of the Tonight Show With Jay Leno are familiar with his Headlines bit where we sometimes get headlines of dubious research and findings. The Ignobel Prizes is a collection of short funny stories about weird experiments, bizarre research projects, highly questionable human endeavors, and just plain stupid scientists and governments spending loads of money to research the obvious or the totally irrelevant. The Ignobel Prizes is a serious funny book. Serious because there is a committee behind the awards. a committee of serious scientists and experts who review the candidatures and award the prizes. Serious because there are actually Ignobel awards and they are actually coveted by some people. Funny because each article is no more than 3 or 4 pages long, quite succinct in its summary of the dubious acchievement awarded the award and the response the winner gave the commitee.

The Ignobel Prizes is a fun read. The kind of book you pick up from time to time while taking care of business or trying to catch some Zs. It is also a fun read when you are trapped in an airplane or at the airport and have a long wait ahead of you. The Ignobel Prizes is fascinating yet not taxing so it is not as if you have to concentrate to understand the funny story or funny event.
Much like the Nobel Prize, there are various categories to the Ignobel Prize such as Economics, Peace, Medecine, Art and so on.

Examples of fun research (or highly dubious research grants were given to:) are: The happiness of clams, the collapse of toilets in Glasgow, the self-perfuming business suit and filter-equipped underwear (both awarded to Japanese scientists) and The Effect of Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetite of Leeches. Hey, even Dan Quayle, Mr. Potatoe head himself is the proud winner of an Ignobel Prize although he did not show up for the ceremony. Author Marc Abrahams was also kind enough to provide the reader with a few famous Quaylisms such as "People are not homeless if they are sleeping on the streets of their own hometowns." (Ignobel Prizes, Abrahams, M. Orion Books, p.365.)

The Ignobel Prizes is definitely the kind of gag gift you can easily give to the scientifically minded in your family or at your office. It also makes a great Christmas gift and will definitely be appreciated. There is something about funny books about weird people that makes them irresistible.



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