In the world of science, it is the ground-breaking work and research of some extra-ordinary men and women which has shaped our understanding of the universe we live in.
Names like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Sir Isaac Newton are synonymous with scientific excellence.
In an article speculating that Newton may have won seven Nobel Prizes had they been invented when he was alive, Physicist Dr. Tom Hartsfield wrote:
“Newton’s [physics] is so monumental, so important, so fundamental, so proven within its realm of validity, that scientists of every sort take it for granted every day. The laws of gravity and motion that Einstein re-envisioned were edits of the commandments first called down from the ether by Newton’s blinding brilliance.”
But not all scientific discoveries are created equally. For example take the example of British ‘goat man’ Thomas Thwaites.
“Thomas who?” you might ask.
Well this man’s contribution to the world of science was his work designing prosthetic limbs that allowed him to walk on all fours and graze with goats on a farm in the Alps for three days.
And while he is most certainly no Albert Einstein, he has contributed to man’s understanding of the natural world and he has won an award for his research.
Thwaites’ work on helping us understand the lives of mountain goats saw him (and his prosthetic limbs) attend the 26th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony which took place on Thursday at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He was no mere attendee either because he was the joint winner of this year’s Ig Nobel Biology Prize which he shared with Charles Foster, who was honored “for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird.”
Ig Nobel prizes are intended to celebrate “the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
It would be difficult to argue that living as a mountain goat for thee days was not unusual or imaginative and any human endeavor which helps make others think more deeply about science must be a good thing.
After receiving his Ig Nobel Prize, Charles said that he considered it a great honor.
Asked why he decided to live as a goat he replied: “I got tired of all the worry and the pain of being a human and so I decided I would take a holiday from it all and become a goat.”
During the three-day experiment, the scientist was able to walk on all fours like a goat and he even ate grass, just like the animals he was studying.
He has published his findings in a book ‘GoatMan: How I Took A Holiday From Being Human’
While he admitted that his study was “a bit of madness” he said he hoped that it might inspire others to take a break from their human lives.
He said: “Who knows? In the future people will be able to take a holiday as different kinds of animals rather than taking a holiday to a tropical beach.”
Writing about the project on his blog Thomas explained his reasoning behind the experiment.
He said: “I tried to become a goat to escape the angst inherent in being a human. The project became an exploration of how close modern technology can take us to fulfilling an ancient human dream: to take on characteristics from other animals.
“But instead of the ferocity of a bear, or the perspective of a bird, the characteristic most useful in modern life is something else; being present in the moment perhaps.
“Anyway I ended up in the Alps, on four legs, at a goat farm, with a prosthetic rumen strapped to my chest, eating grass, and becoming a goat.”
Thomas Thwaites is no Isaac Newton for sure, but he is adding to our understanding of science and raising awareness of the life of the mountain goat at the same time.