2011 Ig Nobel Prizes

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

             – Ig Nobel website

The Ig Nobel Prizes, a parody of the Nobel Prizes, have been awarded to scientists for their strange research since 1991. Awards are given by actual Nobel laureates, at Harvard University, in an apparently pretty goofy ceremony which unfortunately I have not yet watched (it’s also broadcast online by NPR). The Scicurious Brain wrote an article summarizing them, and is gradually rolling out individual articles on them as well (as of now, three are up). The winning discoveries:

Biology: The male Australian jewel beetle mistakes brown beer bottles for female beetles, and… has his way with them.

Chemistry: For the invention of a smoke alarm that emits the smell of wasabi, presumably for the benefit of disabled people who can’t use sound- or light-based fire alarms. One of the winners sang a song about wasabi onstage.

Psychology: Sighing as a social signal conveys mild negative emotion. Seriously.

Physiology: Yawning is not contagious in red-footed tortoises.

Medicine: Having to urinate affects your decision making in unrelated arenas.

Literature: A theory on using procrastination to be productive by procrastinating with important things to do (that are less important than the thing you’re procrastinating at). 

Physics: An explanation of why discus throwers get dizzy but hammer throwers do not. 

Mathematics: To a variety of individuals who incorrectly predicted the end of the world at various points in the past, “for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.”

Peace: I… I just have to quote this. “Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.” Here’s a news story and video. 

Public Safety: “… for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.”

This is a strange tradition indeed, but if it puts science in the spotlight, I am down.


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