When you say Frankenstein, are you referring to the monster first imagined by Mary Shelley? Well, if you are, you need to change your ways, according to Theodore M. Bernstein in The Careful Writer. Why? Frankenstein, he reminds us, was the fictional physiology student in the story who created the monster, not the monster itself.Bernstein sites this example of how the word is often misused: “One would like to know what will happen when the politicians get through and what would have happened had they not created a Frankenstein.” The mistake has been made and repeated so often that it has been accepted as correct even in Webster’s Dictionary. Bernstein reminds us, however, that this usage is an error. In a modern age where errors are as common as websites, blogs and cell phones, we need to care about precision when it comes to matters of language.
Nobel Prizes are awarded for scientific achievement; the Ig Nobel awards are awarded for unlikely, though sometimes legitimate, scientific achievement. The awards are the brainchild of editor and co-founder Marc Abrahams, whose magazine is called The Annals of Improbable Research (www.improb.com). Past awards, according to CNN.com (www.cnn.com) and Wired magazine (www.wired.com), have gone to researchers who:
• Gave hamsters Viagra and discovered it prevented them from suffering jet lag.
• Looked at sword swallowing and its side effects.
• Created a “bottomless” bowl of soup that proved Americans eat as long as there is food in front of them, not just until they are full.
• Found that the wrinkles in sheets are replicated in human and animal skin.
• Created a device that dropped a net over bank robbers.
• Explored why woodpeckers don’t get headaches.
• Looked into the question of what happens to clams who take Prozac.
• Asked why spaghetti breaks into more than two pieces.
• Levitated a frog, pieces of fruits and vegetables and a grasshopper.
• Queried why birds were not pooping on a statue.
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