Blog Posts


Secret Lifer Revisited: Jean Berko Gleason, Ig Nobel Royalty

Every scientist is a winner in his or her own special way. But let’s face it, not everyone can win a Nobel Prize. For a lucky few, however, there is an alternative award, and one that may be even more fun to receive: The Ig Nobel Prize.

“The Stinker,” proud mascot of the Ig Nobel Prizes

According to the Ig Nobel website, the awards “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Winning papers at this year’s ceremony, for example, included “Shape of a Ponytail and the Statistical Physics of Hair Fiber Bundles” and “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation.” Yes, those are real scientific papers. As you can imagine, the Ig Nobel Prize party is a bit whackier than standard science conventions.

Jean Berko Gleason, always prepared to give the queen’s speech.

Among the brilliant and entertaining scientists at this year’s ceremony was a Secret Lifer, our own Jean Berko Gleason, who is somewhat of a regular at the event. Each year, Jean delivers the “Welcome, Welcome” and “Goodbye, Goodbye” speeches that bookend the proceedings–and if there’s one thing Jean knows, it’s speech (watch Jean talk about psycholinguistics on her homepage!). We’re sure Jean delivered a lovely address, but more importantly, she ended up in a tiara–a level of quirk fairly typical of the Igs.

With everything from a live mini-opera to a “Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest,” the Ig Nobel ceremony seems to offer the perfect venue for scientists to let their secret sides run free. And for that, the Igs earn a prize in our book!

Check out Science Friday‘s coverage of the 2012 Igs here!

Tell us what you think on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Caitlin Shure

    Caitlin is a contributor to the Secret Life blog. She is also a student at Columbia Journalism School, completing her master’s degree in science journalism. Caitlin does not love all science equally; favorite topics of rumination include neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary theory. Caitlin draws inspiration from James Watson and Rupaul Andre Charles.