“Whirligig of Time” Tested on the Streets of Cambridge

The pile of props and artifacts from past Ig Nobel Prize Ceremonies has grown into a remarkable collection (several people have remarked on it). Some items sit on a shelf, but others must be worn and used, if they are to be meaningful. For instance, audiences who tuned in early to the 2016 ceremony, saw our Majordomo sitting quietly on stage, reading a book, and wearing a special “Whirlygig of Time” hat.

The whirligig of time, on display moments prior to the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Photo: Alexey Eliseev / Improbable Research.

As “Ignitaries” came on stage, they paused to spin the propeller. When all had taken their turn it was time for the ceremony itself to begin, so the Ig Safety Announcer (who happens to be the Boston globe’s “Miss Conduct”) entered and recited these Shakespeare-Whirlygig lines before spinning the propeller that was mounted atop the Majordomo:

‘Tis almost the appointed hour! Why then methinks ’tis time to smile again. Does the clock upbraid us with the waste of time? No, it is the whirligig of time. The whirligig of time!   (from Twelfth Night)

What to do with the hat after the ceremony? Ceremony co-producer David Kessler decided to test whether it would function outside of a theater. He chose to test it on the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the way to a meeting the day after the ceremony. Here is his report:

On the 20 minute walk to our meeting the whirligig was clunky, didn’t sit securely on my head. It shifted too much and was very clunky. On the walk back I found a much better position for the chin straps, making it more stable and easier to wear. This meant I could stand straighter and walk more easily. That was when things started to happen.

Various people started making eye contact, while others avoided eye contact just as strenuously. A guy in a truck pumped his fist and said, “Vote Trump!” (When I replied, “Yeah, right” he laughed out loud and, with a big smile on his face, said, “Ha! Liberals!”). A group of school kids, maybe 5 years old, came around the corner, being led on a rope. They each wanted to spin the propeller (and I obliged).

…Then I saw the statue of Saint Peter and instantly knew I had to take a photo with it. The results are below. I call them “1 Whirlygig” and “2 Whirlygigs” respectively.

"One whirligig" (photo by D. Kessler)
“One whirligig”
"Two whirligigs" (photo by D. Kessler)
“Two whirligigs”