An Indian who spent 18 years trying to prove he was alive, researchers who showed London taxi drivers have bigger-than-average brains and the inventor of Murphy’s Law won Ig Nobel prizes Thursday. The spoofs of the Nobel prizes were also awarded to researchers who found politicians to have simple personalities, a Japanese inventor who studied a statue that seems to be repulsive to birds, and an economist who chronicles annoying behavior.

THE IG NOBELS — a play on the word “ignoble” as well as the Nobels — are given annually by the Annals of Improbable Research and several groups at Harvard and Radcliffe universities to “honor achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced.”

“We try to make people laugh, but we also want people to think,” said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and founder of the Ig Nobels. The humorous prizes were handed out Thursday night during a ceremony at Harvard.
This year’s “peace prize” went to Lal Bihari of Uttar Pradesh in India for a triple accomplishment. “First, for leading an active life even though he has been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People,” the IgNobel committee said in a statement.

Bihari, who lives in Azamgarh, 130 miles (208 kilometers) southeast of Lucknow, was listed as deceased in 1976. He eventually found thousands of other Indians in the same plight — apparently a scam in which officials are bribed to declare landowners dead so their property can be “inherited.”

Abrahams said the Indian government at first refused to give a dead man a passport to travel to the IgNobel ceremony, but finally agreed last month to issue the travel documents. But by then it was too late for Bihari to get a U.S. visa. “The Indian government, which didn’t recognize his life, gave him a passport,” Abrahams said. “But the American government, the paragon of efficiency and helpfulness, won’t give him a visa. You would expect a man who comes back from the dead would get a little extra help.”


The engineering prize went to now-deceased Air Force Capt. Edward Murphy…

More here.