On the same day that the 1991 Nobel prize for literature was awarded to South African author Nadine Gordimer, researchers at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the creation of a new series of ersatz Nobel prizes for individuals who are likely to have been overlooked by the Nobel Committee.
The new award is named after Ignatius Nobel, “inventor of soda pop” and a “distant cousin” of TNT discoverer Alfred Nobel, who created the namesake Nobel prizes. Among the first winners are Vice President Dan Quayle, junk-bond king Michael Milken and physicist Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb.
The new awards were presented Thursday evening by a group of MIT and Harvard Nobel laureates that included Jerome Friedman and Henry Kendall (physics, 1990); Eric Chivian (peace, 1985); Sheldon Glashow (physics, 1979) and Dudley Herschback (chemistry, 1986). None of the recipients were present, however.
The 1991 Ig Nobel Prize for education was bestowed on Quayle, “consumer of time and occupier of space, for demonstrating better than anyone the need for science education.”
Milken received the 1991 Ig Nobel Prize for economics in recognition of his status as “the father of the junk bond, to whom we are all indebted.” Master of ceremonies Marc Abrahams, editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results, which is published at MIT, noted Friday that “unfortunately, Mr. Milken is unable to attend the ceremony today. He has a previous 15- to 20-year engagement.” Teller, who is also the prime mover of the Star Wars program, received the Ig Nobel Prize for peace “for his lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it.”
A special Interdisciplinary Research Ig Nobel was awarded to Josiah Carberry of Brown University, “bold explorer and eclectic seeker of knowledge, for his pioneering work in the field of Psychoceramics, the study of cracked pots.”
A third Californian honored was Robert Klark Graham, “selector of seeds and prophet of propagation,” who received the biology Ig Nobel “for his pioneering development of the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank that accepts donations from Nobellians and Olympians.”
Although the recipients’ contributions to society may be priceless, the Ig Nobel committee was unable to match the $1 million prize awarded by the other Nobel Foundation.
Each awardee did, however, receive a small, frying pan-shaped medal that screams when shaken, and parking passes that are valid in Cambridge between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on the day after Christmas.