Nobel Pursuits Redux

Some time ago, I wrote about the Nobel Prize (highlights include the following trivia: 1. Despite twelve nominations between 1937 and 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded one, and, perhaps just as curious, 2. The backside of the actual medal depicts three naked men embracing with private parts exposed).

Today, however, noble history of a different kind will be made as Frank Wilczek, MIT physics professor and winner of the Nobel Prize in 2004, sings the lead role in the Austrian premiere of the cleverly titled opera, Atom & Eve.


From a press release we received:

The opera recounts the romance between a humble oxygen atom and the beautiful female chemist who spies him one day in her microscope"¦ Atom & Eve debuted in 2003 at the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University. The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.

Marc Abrahams, organizer of the Ig Nobel Prizes, wrote the opera's libretto. Abrahams is also the editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

And though no mention was made of the composer (if anyone knows who wrote the music, do tell!), I, for one, am looking forward to the performance via live webcast -- ding! another point for technology.

Check out for linkage and tune in starting at 1pm EDT. There's also a link there to download the entire libretto in English, German and Chinese... talk about taking the joke seriously. Erg.

(note: this just in... apparantly the music is by Arthur Sullivan... per an email from Marc Abrahams. Thanks Marc! If you listen to the webcast and figure out which opera, write in! First one to get it wins bragging rights...)

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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