Ig Nobel Prize: Laugh, and then Think!


What if I told you that there is a parody set of Nobel Prizes awarded annually for trivial scientific achievements. Well, there is and it is the “Ig Nobel Prize”, which was created in 1991 by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. The main concept of the Prize is to encourage scientific research by celebrating and honoring unusual and imaginative ideas. Nominees have to present their ideas in a way to make people “Laugh then Think”. Check out this video to see the most hilarious Ig Nobel Prizes ever awarded.

Marc Abrahams—the Ig Nobel Awards founder—recounts in the following video stories of truly weird scientific ideas; he proves that what we call silliness was important to boost the public interest in science. Despite the funny nature of the awards, all the involved discoveries are legitimate research findings that have been published in scientific journals; even one of the winners, Sir Andre Geim, actually won both an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000, and an actual Nobel Prize in 2010, for using the magnetic properties of water scaling to levitate a small frog with magnets.

The Ig Nobel ceremony is held annually in Harvard University, and is presented by a group of eminent professors, including actual Nobel Laureates. The Prize’s website archive (improbable.com/ig/archive) is full of highlights, programs, photos, videos, and more from past Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies, dating back to 1991.

Although the Ig Nobel Prize is sometimes accompanied by criticism of insignificant researchers, history has proven that those studies can sometimes lead to important scientific breakthroughs. For instance, a study proved that a malaria mosquito is attracted equally to the smell of both the Limburger cheese and the human feet; as a direct result of this study, traps baited with this kind of cheese have been placed in strategic locations in some parts of Africa to combat the malaria epidemic.

It is worth mentioning that one of the winning researches in chemistry has caught the attention of the Ig Nobel Prize committee. It studied the microbes and toxins in the beards of researchers working in laboratories; later on, it became a basis for safety guidelines in biohazard labs worldwide. In 2013, a group of researchers won a joint Ig Nobel Prize in biology and astronomy. They studied beetles’ ability to roll their balls of dung in straight lines by using the stars, hence there is a potential  of applying the principles discovered in dung beetle navigation that may be useful in the design of autonomous vehicles and robots.

We cannot deny that the Ig Nobel Prize has succeeded in capturing people’s attention and making science very interesting by poking fun, celebrating the unusual and honoring imaginative and creative people.


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