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Entrepreneur Wins Prize for Doggone Originality

An Ig Nobel goes to the maker of neutered dogs' prosthetic testicles at a Harvard ceremony.

October 07, 2005|Associated Press

BOSTON — Gregg Miller mortgaged his home and maxed out his credit cards to get funds to mass-produce his invention -- prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs.

What started 10 years ago with an experiment on a Rottweiler named Max has turned into a thriving mail-order business.

And Thursday night Miller's efforts earned him a dubious yet strangely coveted honor: the Ig Nobel Prize for medicine.

"Considering my parents thought I was an idiot when I was a kid, this is a great honor," he said. "I wish they were alive to see it."

The Ig Nobels, given at Harvard University by Annals of Improbable Research magazine, celebrate the humorous, creative and odd side of science.

While some awards clearly poke fun at current culture, others are meant to provoke debate about science, Annals editor Marc Abrahams said.

"Now in their 15th year, the Igs honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think," Abrahams said.

Miller has sold more than 150,000 of his Neuticles, more than doubling his $500,000 investment.

The silicone implants come in different sizes, shapes, weights and degrees of firmness.

The product's website says Neuticles allow a pet "to retain his natural look" and "self-esteem."

Although the Ig Nobels are not exactly prestigious, many recipients are, like Miller, happy to win.

"Most scientists -- no matter what they're doing, good or bad -- never get any attention at all," Abrahams said.

Some, like Benjamin Smith of the University of Adelaide in Australia, who won the biology prize, actually nominated their own work.

"I've been a fan of the Ig Nobels for a while," he said.

Smith's team studied and cataloged different scents emitted by more than 100 species of frogs under stress. Some smelled like cashews, while others smelled like licorice, mint or rotting fish.

He recalled getting strange looks when he'd show up at zoos asking to smell the frogs. "I've been turned away at the gate," he said.

The Ig Nobel Prizes were handed to the winners by genuine Nobel laureates Dudley Herschbach (1986, chemistry), William Lipscomb (1976, chemistry), Robert Wilson (1978, physics) and Sheldon Glashow (1979, physics).

Harvard professor Roy Glauber, awarded a Nobel Prize in physics, has been a regular at the Ig Nobels for 10 years, sweeping paper airplanes thrown on the stage during the ceremony.

Other winners this year include:

"Literature" -- The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria "for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq."

The scams are notorious for asking people to reveal their private bank information to help fictitious characters transfer large, but fictitious, sums of money.

"Fluid Dynamics" -- Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oulu, Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Lorond Eotvos University in Hungary, for "Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh -- Calculations on Avian Defaecation," an actual study published in 2003 in the journal Polar Biology.

"Economics" -- Gauri Nanda of MIT for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides.

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