The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 6, 1999

Heaven Help Political Journalists

By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane

...Speaking of genii, Marc Abrahams knows some people the MacArthur Foundation might want to call if it wants to reward comic genius. For the uninitiated, Abrahams is the merry prankster behind the Ig Nobel prizes, which are given out annually at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to honor wacky but real scientific research. Abrahams was in town last week entertaining folks at the Library of Congress and the National Institute of Standards and Technology with tales of weird science drawn from the Ig Nobel shows or featured in the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a satirical journal he edits. Any Ig Nobel winners worthy of a genius award? we asked. "Oh, yes, some of this is really important," he said. Well, perhaps. His nominees include: * Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, who dosed clams with Prozac and studied their reaction. Fong discovered that Prozac caused the mollusks to reproduce at about 10 times their normal rate. "For clams, Prozac acts just like Viagra," Abrahams said. * The team of biologists who wrote the paper "Monitoring Electroejaculation in the Rhinoceros with Ultrasonography" for the 1996 annual meeting of the Society for Theriogeneology. It begins with this riveting first sentence: "Electroejaculation is difficult to perform in the rhinoceros." Indeed. * Jungian psychologist Mara Sidoli, formerly of Washington, who wrote "Farting as a Defense Against Unspeakable Dread," which is about, well, passing gas when terrified. "That was a beautiful piece of work," Abrahams recalled. And who says they don't get jiggy at the Library of Congress? The boisterous audience sang along with parts of Abrahams's show, then followed the AIR tradition and let loose a brief flurry of paper airplanes.

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