The Ig Nobel Prizes for science: first you laugh, THEN you think

It’s that time of year, when actual Nobel Laureates award other scientists prizes for research that seems unnecessary, questionable, or downright absurd.

Does the world really need artificial replacement testicles for dogs? In three difference sizes and degrees of firmness, no less?  Should there really be a U.S. patent for the combover?

The Ig Nobel Prizes – the brainchild of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research – are handed out every September in a ceremony co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.

This year’s awards ceremony took place on September 18, 2014 at Harvard University. Winners travelled to the ceremony — at their own expense — to accept the awards and explain them in 60 seconds to a live audience of 1,100.

Those who didn’t finish their speeches in time faced eight-year old Miss Sweetie Poo repeating over and over, “Please finish – I’m bored.”  Each Ig Nobel Prize ceremony  also features a newly commissioned opera aria, such as 1998’s La Forza Del Duct Tape.

Photo: Richard Baguley

Photo: Richard Baguley

Though the Ig Nobel Prizes seem little more than the “Razzie” Awards of science, the creators say the point is to make us laugh, and then think. What’s important? What’s not? What’s real?

Both good and bad achievements can be odd, funny, and even absurd, they say. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.

Examples of Ig Nobel-winning research include:

Best of all for many are the sometimes ironic Peace Prizes, which have gone to such luminaries as:

Nominations for next year’s Ig Nobel awards are accepted throughout the year. Or, if you’re a scientist, but haven’t yet discovered your inner Walter White, there’s always the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists.TM

hair club

Because scientists aren’t just smarter and funnier than the rest of us – they also have better hair.


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