Ig Nobel Services Provided This Year to Security Agencies

“NSA Courtesy Cam” Operator (© 2013 by Julia Lunetta)
The NSA Courtesy Cam operator at the 20013 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony (photo by Julia Lunetta)

As co-producer of the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, I know that we have more than one audience — one in the seats of Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre, and one watching our live broadcasts online from around the world.

In the spirit of experimentation, and perhaps even of constant improvement, the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (see the full video or ceremony details) included several new services to help both these audiences. Among those were two of note:

For our off-site audience we offered our NSA Courtesy Cam and our IG_NSA twitter feed. We hope that this was useful for any security agencies concerned that the official Ig broadcast did not include enough information.  We also hope that no one was too alarmed that the man in charge of this extra information had a British accent.

For our in-theatre audience we offered the Ig Nobel Information Desk in the theatre’s lobby. We are very happy that so many people came to this desk and hope that none of them were too alarmed to discover that the desk was there to collect information rather than to dispense it.  We understand why they may have thought that the desk would work the other way.

The desk was very ably staffed by our Information Liaison, Dr. Jenny Gutbezahl, a researcher, consultant, and author in the field of collecting information.  Dr. Gutbezahl listened to everything that people told her at the Information Desk, and attempted to group that everything into categories for us.

Her first category concerned the people who came to the table believing that they would receive information there rather than give it, and gave information that concerned the information they had hoped to receive.

• There was a Japanese Laureate; he’s married and I’m trying to find his wife
• I’m looking for the will call; I will be sad if I can’t find the will call
• I need a place to leave a ticket

Here are Dr. Gutbezahl’s other categories, with select examples:

Some people gave local or Ig-specific information
•The Turkey Sub is Very Delicious
•I was just taught how to fold a paper hat out of a Japanese newspaper
•It’s very hot in here
•The cioppino at Legal Seafood is pretty tasty

A few people gave specific factual information
• Science will be publishing the results of a major sting operation the first week of October
• Tony Kubek played shortstop for The Yankees in 1959

Two people got into an argument about where the solar system ends
• Voyager One has officially left the solar system
• No – it left the heliosphere; it’s still within the gravitational pull of the Sun.
• The solar system ends at the termination shock!
• No it doesn’t!
• Agreed as valid information: Voyager one is definitely in a denser region of plasma

A few people were unable to provide any information
• We’re not very good information generators
• The Hypotenuse… that’s all I’ve got

Several people gave personal information
• My name is Diana
• My name is Jeannie Austin
• I have blue eyes
• My last name is MacIntosh
• My dog’s name is Buster; he’s a French Bulldog

Thanks to Dr. Gutbezahl and to all those who supplied her with information.  We hope that people can agree on a common definition for “solar system” in the near future.

in the transept (© 2013 by David Kessler)
The Ig Nobel Information Desk (not pictured here) was located in the transept of Sanders Theatre, where audience members (not pictured here) lingered before entering the theater proper (not pictured here). (Photo by David Kessler)