Thomas Thwaites is an unusually gifted young man. He is an engineer, whose designs have won awards. He is also a favored giver of TED talks. (Technology, Entertainment and Design) One day, he decided he had had enough and decided to spend a few days living as and with goats. He even designed himself some goat legs. When his story appeared on television, the news anchors broke out in laughter and they couldn’t stop.
The thirty-five-year-old designer and engineer once gave a TED talk in which he introduced a remarkable new toaster that he had built, as close from scratch as can be attained without taking Einstein’s edict about apple pies literally.
But the accolades and successes left him feeling the want for a different experience. He decided that he needed a new perspective on life, one perhaps not so wrapped up in the trappings of the modern human experience.
And so he decided to live as a goat.
Yup. he even went so far as to have prostheses that he designed constructed to allow him to move like the animals and a special digester that would process his grass-based food into something a human could consume more efficiently. He spent three days, living with a herd of goats in the countryside, grazing on grassy hills, drinking from streams, and butting heads for social standing.
It had been his hypothesis that living as a more simple animal would be less stressful and enjoyable, but he discovered that life ain’t easy for any of us, no matter how many legs, or stomachs, we may have.
Thwaites had thought that living like a goat would be much less stressful than being a human but he found that not to be true. Navigating the slopes caused him to fall over quite a bit and of course there’s all that grass you have to eat. But he has now written a book about the experience and he even won an IG Nobel Prize from Harvard University. The award is for Improbable Research and the presenters of the prizes are made by real Nobel Laureates.
Previous winners include a team that studied the adhesion qualities of human snot, and Volkswagen, for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.”
One recent winning team received the award for “discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa).”
While many take this award as a tongue-in-cheek dig at pure science with no practical application, the truth is, some of this science may actually matter someday.