Nobel Prizes/gorilla suits

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Oct 10 15:09:37 EST 1995

On 10 Oct 1995 robison at wrote:

> Alexander Berezin (berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA) wrote:
> : The above comes as no surprise.
> : Despite that there are, of course, exceptions, 
> : pattern of Nobel Prizes (all areas) shows a
> : consistent moral decline over the last years 
> : (if not decades).
> : Every year several of them (senile or not ?) got
> : together at MIT (Mass.Inst.of Technology) dressed
> : at gorilla suits for a strange feast called 
> : "Ig-Nobele Prize award" to laugh at other scientists
> : (sometime deceased) who somehow did not make it to 
> : their "Nobel Club". A short letter on this is
> : attached. - Alex Berezin
> : (the following letter was published recently in 
> : the "American Physical Society News", July 1995)
> : --------------------------------------------------------- 
> : Marc Abrahams' "Improbable Research" (APS News, March 1995)
> : and numerous (mostly critical) comments on it in the May
> : issue raise the question of credibility of *real* (not Ig)
> : Nobel Prize laureats who regularly (or occasionally)
> : participate in Ig-ceremonies.
> : We are fortunate to live in a (relatively) free society
> : and the right to openly ridicule anything you wish is, of
> : course, among its fundamental cornerstones. But it is not
> : a free ride. The price for this right is that nothing,
> : not even the genuinely deserved Nobel Prize, make people
> : fully immune from the possibility to damaging the level
> : of respect they enjoy in the eyes of others. 
> : We all know that many scientific breakthroughs in the past
> : were first met with jeers and scorn. When the freshmen or
> : sophomores make a humorous pantomime on fringe science 
> : claims, this can be both funny and nice. But when the people
> : blessed with the highest scientific honour on Earth play
> : the Zoo on their, often equally distinguished, colleagues
> : (yes, who will deny that Edward Teller has the same
> : scientific calibre as many *real*, not Ig, nobelists ?), 
> : it lookes planly stupid. And as a result, the players 
> : look far more ridiculous than the targets of their wit.
> : Please, Nobel guys, we give you the benefit of doubt, but
> : find other stage for your suppressed clownistic talents !         
> : Alexander A. Berezin,
> : McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario
> Dr. Berezin has obviously never attended an Ig Nobel ceremony,
> and really hasn't the slightest clue about them.  Alternatively,
> he completely lacks the soh (sense of humor) locus.
> I have attended two Ig Nobel ceremonies.  They are, indeed,
> silly, slapstick, and a bit sophomorish.  They also skewer some
> of the sillier research and claims in the world, and poke gentle fun at 

Okay, okay, Dr. Robison. I agree with all you write above.
Even can swallow lack of soh. Obviously if you work at Harvard 
you should be much, much higher than most of us, simple mortals 
are. Perhaps you even have Nobel Prize - congratulations if you 
do, I just don't have a list at hands to check this. However, 
I would like to ask you: how do you know that all what you are
doing in your research will not be seen as "silliest research 
and claims" (quoting your words) some 50 (or perhaps, even 20)
years from now. These things did happen in science before 
(phrenology, mesmerism and lot of others. IQ is a likely next
candidate). So, what separates "you" from "them" ?  Do you 
believe that you are "fully covered" by peer reviewers for 
this matter ? If not by them than by whom ? 
> some of the other things which science has brought us (for example,
> the previous prize in Chemistry for the invention of blue jello).
> Often what is mocked is not science, but the all too abundant 
> pseudoscience in the world, and the silly excesses within the scientific
> community.  

Alfred Weneger who propsed the continental drift was
considerd a charlatan by the mainstream establishement
for many years. So was mathematician Georg Cantor ("Cantor
set"). Only the fact that there were no Ig-prizes 
in their time (and no Nobels in geology or math) apparently
spared them from Ig-nomination. 

> Yes, a few local Nobel laureates show up (though I have
> yet to see one in a gorilla suit), and not one of them shows any
> sign of senility.  Instead, they get up and enjoy themselves, and
> help deflate the excess seriousness that Dr Berezin appears to covet.

You disappointed me about gorilla suits. I read about 
them in March APS Newsletter. Apparently, reporter mixed 
it up (after all, standard Stockholm tuxedo and gorilla 
suit look about the same after some few gins).

> Keith Robison
> Harvard University
> Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
> Department of Genetics / HHMI
> robison at 

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