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Science that’s hard to swallow

Dan Meyer won an Ig Nobel prize for publishing a paper on the side effects of sword swallowing.

By Margaret Harris

It’s not all doom and climate-change gloom here in conferenceland, however. Many readers will already be familiar with the Ig Nobel prizes, which are given annually in honour of science that makes you laugh, and then makes you think. But it’s not every day that you get to see a proud Ig Nobelist in the flesh — and it’s even rarer to watch one of them swallow 12 inches of solid steel, as Dan Meyer is doing in this photo (he swallowed an even bigger blade — 24 inches, long enough to reach the base of his stomach — at the press party later that night).

Meyer is president of the Sword Swallowers Association International, and he won the Ig Nobel for medicine in 2007 for co-authoring a paper in the British Medical Journal on “Swordswallowing and Its Side Effects”. These side effects include – unsurprisingly – both sore throats and, erm, death. Fortunately, nothing so drastic occurred tonight, and if Meyer did get a sore throat afterwards, I’m sure plenty of people would have bought him a drink to help soothe it.

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