Ignoble. ig-no-ble. /ig’ nōbel/. Adjective.
1. not honourable in character or purpose.
“ignoble feelings of intense jealousy”
synonyms: dishonourable, unworthy, base, shameful, contemptible, despicable, dastardly, vile, degenerate, shabby, sordid, mean.
2. of humble origin or social status.
Ig Nobel. An elegant, grand and most noble prize, a take on the Nobel Prize, but a lot more fun. And with more laughs.
It’s a science award — after a fashion — designed to make you laugh and then afterwards, and only afterwards, think. Laughter is not only the best medicine: Nine out of 10 leading scientists say it also makes you think harder.
Or maybe not.
The science, truth be told, isn’t in on that part yet. Sounds reasonable, though.
The 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony (2018) was held over the weekend at Harvard University, and the winners were in good form. Humble origin, check. Low social status, check — at least, when compared to that annual soirée in Oslo, Norway. Or is it Stockholm?
And if the losers — excuse me, “non-recipients” (it’s an honour just to be nominated!) — harboured any “ignoble feelings of intense jealousy,” they were dignified enough not to show it. The ignoble savages behaved themselves, for the most part, right up to the part where Wilfrid Laurier assistant professor Lindie Hanyu Liang — a teacher of “organizational behaviour and resource management” at Laurier’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics in WEaterloo, Ont. — won the grand prize for her groundbreaking research on how angry employees can use voodoo dolls to get even with abusive bosses.
“We were really excited to hear we had won,” Liang said, with characteristic humility and understatement — so much so that onlookers were willing to overlook her use of the royal ‘we.’ Unless, by that, she meant her team of underlings and staffers. Assistants to the assistant professor, if you will.
And to be recognized in such a competitive field of finalists, too!
“Our work manipulating the psychological state of retaliation is really novel and can pave the way for future researchers,” Liang added.
There you have it, then. The next time you confront your abusive boss, feel free to poke away with a sharp needle, and then cite research as your excuse. Hey, it works for the Japanese whaling fleet.
“We’re trying to understand why people retaliate against abusive bosses,” Liang continued. “We found that, with voodoo dolls, people feel they’ve restored their sense of justice.”
According to their study, Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S104898431730276X), published in the February issue of Leadership Quarterly, Liang and fellow researchers asked participants to recall an abusive workplace interaction. Some participants were asked to harm an online voodoo doll using the materials provided (pins, pliers, etc.), while others weren’t given that option. “Those who hurt the voodoo doll felt a greater sense of justice than those who did not,” the release found.
Even so,, Liang is hesitant to recommend that people use voodoo dolls.
“Employees retaliate because there’s mistreatment going on in the workplace,” she said in a statement. “Instead of punishing people who retaliate against their bosses, the focus should be on the leader’s behaviour.”
Oh, like, that’ll work.
But enough about bad bosses and voodoo dolls.
Other leaps of the imagination jumped to the fore at this year’s ceremony, all in the name of weird science.
The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was organized by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) as a way to recognize real, actual science, just not the kind you’d expect to learn about in Oslo or Stockholm. The presentation itself may be silly at times, but the science of the prizewinning research is legit.
Adding to the occasion, the prizes are awarded in person by a group of “genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel laureates” — this, according to the Ig Nobel’s official website (https://www.improbable.com/ig/2018/)
BBC News thought enough of the event that it assigned its senior science correspondent, Pallab Ghosh, to the ceremony.
The Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine went to researchers from Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, who found that riding a really, really dangerous roller-coaster is an effective — if ill-advised— way to pass kidney stones. (Don’t laugh: This actually happened when Michigan State professor Dr. David Wartinger, a urologist, assessed a patient who returned from a vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida, complaining that a spin on the theme park’s Big Thunder Mountain ride gave him a lot more than he bargained for.
Prof. Wartinger was intrigued. He pursued the research further, going so far as to build a silicone model of his patient’s renal system, complete with artfiical kidney stones and scale-sized models of theme park rides.
Prof. Wartinger discovered through his research that Big Thunder Mountain is more effective than similar yet scarier rides (because of their prolonged drops) such as Space Mountain and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. Prof. Wartinger found that Big Mountain boasts more side-to-side and up-and-down movements that “rattle” the rider, rather than long, steep drops that simply scare the living bejesus out of one.
But wait, there’s more.
Other awards went to British researcher James Cole, who won the Ig Nobel Prize in Nutrition for a study that found that good old-fashioned cannibalism is not as nutritious as you might think, copmpared weith other kinds of meat — one imagines the researcher intoning, much like a self-important network-TV news anchor, “We looked into it, and what we found might surprise you.”
(Don’t be alarmed: This wasn’t part of some industry study to come up with a cost-effective alternative source of protein, but rather a look at the dietary habits of early humankind, which branches of early humans survived or died, and why._
Prize winners will have their research published in the Annals of Improbable Research, which is a little like the journal Nature, only not really.
The evening went quickly by all acounts — more quickly than those tedious Hollywood ceremonies like the Oscars and the Emmys.
That’s in part because the award winners were told they had 60 seconds, and no longer, to deliver an acceptance speech.
The time limit was strictly enforced by an eight-year-old girl who was instructed to say, “Please stop — I’m bored,” over and over again, until the speaker stopped.
Perhaps Hollywood could take the cue.
After all, you know what they say: Imitation is the sincerest form of television.