Scientists let their hair down!
I was wondering about the ducks. I mean, it’s a good idea to inform speakers how their presentations are progressing – a lot of science conferences (and award ceremonies!) need greater enforcement of timings – but volunteers doing ‘duck quacks’ every 30 seconds during two minute ‘dramatic readings’, perhaps a bit excessive?
I needn’t have worried – all became clear.
Why ‘after Dark’? Well, as joint host Mark Abrahams mentioned right up front: this was research that touched upon matters that might discomfort those of a delicate sensibility – of which there were none as far as I could see!
Damn it we’re scientists, after all!
We’re used to being dispassionate observers of all matters, physical or indeed visceral – nothing was going to daunt us!
So the first presentation: ‘Fellatio in Fruit bats was no problem at all, especially with the interesting possibility that this activity could infer bacterial/immunological benefits. Valerie Jamieson’s demonstration of how a brazier might be converted for use as a protective face mask in event of a chemical attack was certainly informative and well done. ‘Projectile rates of Penguin Pooh’ I took in my stride, although the correlation between height, penis length and foot-size did raise a few … eyebrows; especially when it came down to the discussion of how stretching the flaccid member for reliable measurement was achieved.
Then we got down to implanting prosthetic devices into dog scrotums. Ok – I’m still with you. Nose picking and the use of rectal pressure to stop hiccups? Please, I’ve just eaten (very nice chicken burger too)!
And then we had: ‘Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals during Orgasm’ – what really? I mean, really really?
It’s a good job that the presentations were being given by volunteers rather than the authors, or perhaps more serious questions (concerning their sanity for example) rather than funny quips, might have been asked. These things just happen I guess – hard to say how (I am writing this as the co-author of a paper that reported the first cork-screw headed sperm, of course); maybe I’d better keep quiet.
Oh, there was one speaker presenting his own work: Ig Noble prize winner, the extremely entertaining Chris McManus on ‘Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and Ancient Sculpture’ and I’ve let him speak for himself:
Lest anyone believe that these talks reflect the rabid meanderings of a crazed scientific establishment, I should remind you that the Ig Noble Prize’s noble calling is for achievements that first make people LAUGH and then make them THINK.
Excellent! Wonder if I can steal that line?
I did in fact get asked by Jennifer Rohn of the always interesting lablit website whether, as a comedy writer and scientist, I thought scientists were funnier than ‘average’. I wish I had been able to quote sample sizes and standard deviations; instead I said what I thought and that’s actually all about ‘pattern awareness’ (a discussion which can wait for another day).
In case you haven’t quite followed my drift, this was an extremely entertaining evening spent in very good company and I recommend that all right thinking scientists and sentient beings get along to a meeting of their local ‘Skeptics’ or catch the Ig Noble Prize tour (of which this was an informal taster)coming to a venue near you soon.
Before I forget: the ‘duck quacks’ – that all become clear in the last reading by Mark Henderson, science editor of The Times. This concerned ‘Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard: the insertion of ‘duck quacks’ made the talk completely unforgettable – well I’m not going to be able to erase it in a hurry!
Oh did I mention ‘foreskin trapping’? Probably best not to then.
Thanks to organisers Sid Rodrigues of ‘Skeptics’ and Mark Abrahams, editor of ‘The Annals of Improbable Research’ for letting Bloghazard film and take photos.