“There’s a touching nobility in the Ig Nobel…”

Warwick McFadyen, writing in The Age, perhaps at the the end of a long day, takes a philosophical look at the Ig Nobel Prizes:

A touching nobility can be discovered in the goofiness of life
The world needs more awards to honour absurdity.

…So let us praise the Ig Nobel Prizes, which were announced at the end of last week at Harvard University. The awards are organised by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. They restore one’s faith in humankind’s dogged perseverance to laugh at itself – against all the odds. To paraphase and bend Shakespeare: What a piece of work is a man, how Ig Noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals …

Of course this is the slightly unhinged Hamlet, but still. There’s a touching nobility in the Ig Nobel. It manifests itself in the often neglected ability we have of using that part of our brain where the harmlessly dumb creatures roam; the place where we are busy working to change a piece of spaghetti into string theory….

Improbable Research says the awards are not about ridicule. ”We are honouring achievements that make people laugh, then think. Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; so can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.”

Frankly, the world cries out for more such awards. The Literary Review magazine does have its worst piece of writing on sex award, but literature could do much more: plot, character, description, dialogue. There’s sport, politics and business.

In a culture dominated by reality shows, in all their shades of idiocy, a dose of madness of thought, laced with laughter at our inner goofiness, is needed. There is nothing ignoble about that.