* The alternative Nobel prizes – the "Ig Nobel" prizes, an annual set of awards for ludicrous investigations, produced by a science humour magazine called Annals of Improbable Research – were announced in Harvard University's library this week. The language prize went to Barcelona university for proving that rats cannot tell the difference between Japanese being spoken backwards and Dutch being spoken backwards. Two professors from Harvard and Santiago nabbed the physics prize for research into how sheets become wrinkled. The peace prize was won by the US Air Force's Wright Laboratory for trying to invent a chemical that would provoke a homosexual frenzy among enemy troops. But the biology prize was won by a Brit, Brian Whitcombe, for his research into sword swallowing. He discovered that amateurs are subject to sore throats. And that practitioners suffer from "major complications" if distracted in mid-swallow. Well done, Brian. We're all so proud.
* Alarming hints of trouble ahead for Tehran's headbangers. El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, has just run an interview with the Iranian Minister of Culture, a Mr Mohamed Hossein Saffar-Harandi. Was he a traditionalist or did he enjoy a burst of devil-may-care pop music, every now and again? The minister's reply was measured: "I know there are music genres, mostly heavy metal," he said, "that can provoke – combined with some hallucinogens – young people to jump out of cars while driving at high speed. I'm opposed to that kind of music." Gulp. These speeding cars – they wouldn't be Iranian police cars, would they?
* I know about canned laughter but this is ridiculous. The brand-new Lexigrund football stadium in Zurich has been open only a month, and its acoustics turn out to be rubbish. Spectators cannot hear announcements over the PA system and, more dismaying, chanting fans cannot make themselves heard. The stadium will be home to the European championships next year, and really cannot conduct such vital games in polite silence. So new a sound system will blast canned chanting noises through 20 huge speakers. Players and fans alike are calling it "total deceit" and "a deception." Does the BBC know about it?
* Red faces this week after the obituaries of Ronnie Hazlehurst were published. He was the most prolific and successful composer of TV theme tunes, the man responsible for the insanely catchy sig-tunes to Blankety Blank and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. Less well known is that, at 72, he wrote the words and music to "Reach," the cheerily inspirational hit for S Club 7. Or did he? It was in The Times obituary so it must be true. Surely? But no, it was a huge fib inserted by a hoaxer into Hazlehurst's entry on Wikipedia. Other papers fell for it (including this one,) demonstrating that we all put too much trust in the online encyclopedia. Check it now, and you'll find the Times OnLine obit has airbrushed any mention of "Reach," as if it had never been. If only ...Reuse content