2013 Ig Nobel Prizes Announced

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The 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes were given out last night at Harvard University, and the winners were outstanding as always. At first glance, only a couple of them look relevant to the law, but you never know, and besides any excuse will do.

I mentioned this event a couple of weeks ago and noted that the ceremony would feature the first performance of "The Blonsky Device," a mini-opera inspired by the inventors of "Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force," still one of my favorite patents. Another patent was on the list this year, namely U.S. Pat. No. 3,811,643, "Anti Hijacking System for Aircraft," which won the Safety Engineering Prize. The picture may be self-explanatory but the abstract is worth reading:

Figure 2An anti hijacking system for an airplane to be operated during flight. A partition or barrier located immediately aft of the pilots['] cabin is adapted to be raised dividing the aft section longitudinally into port and starboard areas, the floors of which are dropped on command to lower the hijacker into a capsule in the belly of the plane. The capsule is releasable through opened bomb bay doors having attached thereto a parachute for safely returning the hijacker within the capsule to earth.

That is, it would give hijackers the good old trapdoor treatment. It is tempting to say that the parachute should be optional, but I won't.

I looked at some of the prior history on that invention, by the way, and it is probably worth a whole separate post. For now let's just say there is a lot of prior history that involves trapdoors and similar devices.

The other law-related item this year was the Peace Prize, which went to President Barack Obama (no, wait, that actually happened) Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, and to the Belarus State Police for arresting a one-armed man for applauding. I also covered that drama here, and here (via Neatorama) is a Christian Science Monitor report with additional confirmation that this, too, actually happened. 

Other prizes included:

  • Psychology: awarded to an international team of scientists who confirmed that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive, and published their findings under the great title, "Beauty Is In The Eye of the Beer Holder";
  • Biology and Astronomy: to Swedish and South African scientists who found that when dung beetles get lost they can navigate by looking at the position of the Milky Way; and

The full list of winners for 2013 is here.