9 October 1998  7:00 PM

Bear Armor and Frisky Clams Win Ig Nobels

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS--While suspense builds for next week's
announcement of the Nobel Prizes in science, a few of the past laureates
gathered at Harvard University last night to help celebrate more dubious
achievements: the Ig Nobel prizes, awarded annually by the Annals of
Improbable Research to researchers whose findings "cannot or should not
be reproduced."

Perhaps the most formidable winner was Troy Hurtubise of Ontario, Canada,
who earned the safety engineering prize for designing a high-tech suit of
armor to wear during encounters with grizzly bears. The awards committee
was particularly impressed by Hurtubise's thorough testing methods, which
included throwing himself off a cliff while wearing the armor and being
smacked by baseball bats, bashed by a truck at 65 kilometers an hour, and
blasted with an AK-47 at 3 meters. "I didn't even have a bruise," he told

Other notable winners included Peter Fong of Gettysburg College in
Pennsylvania, who took home the biology prize for discovering that
fingernail clams on Prozac reproduce 10 times faster than normal;
previous chemistry winner Jacques Benveniste of the Digital Biology
Laboratory in Clamart, France, who gathered his second Ig Nobel for
claiming not only that water has memory but also that this information
can be transmitted via e-mail; and New Age guru Deepak Chopra of La
Jolla, California, who garnered the physics prize for his interpretation
of quantum physics, "as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
economic happiness."

Despite the Stirling competition, the star of the show was 11-year-old
Emily Rosa of Loveland, Colorado. Although she was not a winner herself,
her keynote speech on how she debunked a method of alternative healing
called therapeutic touch brought the crowd to its feet. "I was just
learning about science and spent only $10," she confessed--although she
did manage to publish her findings in the 1 April Journal of the American
Medical Association. Rosa did, however, accept the science education
prize on behalf of the researcher whose work she had debunked.


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