Swordswallower Dan Meyer, co-winner of the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine (for the BMJ study “Swordwallowing and Its Side Effects“) accidentally replicated the findings of an earlier Ig Nobel Prize-winning study that involved a gorilla. This video shows it happening:
The video was filmed during the 2010 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK (for the UK’s National Science & Engineering Week). The action happens in Liverpool, in front of the Cavern Club, where The Beatles rose to fame.
Dan and several other tour performers made a pilgrimage to the Cavern Club. For historical purposes, Dan swallowed a sword in front of the door. While he was doing that, tourists kept wandering down the alley to themselves pay tribute to the Cavern Club. Most of those tourists were so intent on glimpsing the Cavern Club that they did not even notice that — right on front of them— a man was swallowing a sword. Two of those tourists are visible at the end of this video clip.
This curious aspect of human psychology was the focus of a project that earned the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in psychology. Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris were honored for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit. Details of that experiment are in their study “Gorillas in Our Midst,” vol. 28, Perception, 1999, pages 1059-74.
BONUS (added April 12, 2010): This is almost certainly unrelated to the above, yet… The New York Times reports today about a connection between The Beatles and a different Ig Nobel Prize winner. The headline reads “Vatican Makes Peace With the Beatles“. The Vatican was awarded the 2004 Ig Nobel Economics Prize, for outsourcing prayers to India.