Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Ariely [pictured here, right] answers a reader’s question about a substance that produced an Ig Nobel Prize in 1995. A reader of Ariely’s blog asked:
During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I stopped by a coffee shop offering a very expensive coffee called kopi luwak, or civet coffee. I asked about the steep price, and the barista told me the story of the special process required to make this coffee: A catlike Indonesian animal known as a civet eats coffee cherries and then poops out what are basically beans. People then collect these “processed” beans and use them to make a highly unusual brew that’s said to be smoother than its journey. It can sell for hundreds of dollars per pound. I was curious but not interested (or brave) enough to buy it—let alone drink it. Can you explain why are people willing to pay for this? …
The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. [REFERENCE: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.]
The 2005 Ig Nobel Prize in nutrition was awarded to John Martinez [pictured here, above] of J. Martinez & Company in Atlanta, Georgia, for educating the world about luak coffee, the world’s most expensive coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and excreted by the luak (aka, the palm civet), a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia.