Each year, at a gala ceremony in Harvard's Sanders Theatre,
ten Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded for "achievements
that cannot or should not be reproduced." The Prizes are
physically handed to the winners by genuinely bemused genuine
Nobel Laureates. 1200 splendidly eccentric spectators watch
the winners step forward to accept their Prizes.
The ten prizes are given to people who have done remarkably
goofy things -- some of them admirable, some perhaps otherwise.
The Igs are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative
-- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.
Some examples ?
- Anders Barheim and Hogne Sandvik (Ig Nobel Biology Prize,
1996), who discovered that sour cream stimulates the appetite
of leaches, but that beer intoxicates the creatures and
garlic often kills them.
- The 1993 Ig Nobel Literature Prize has been awarded to
976 cowinners who coauthored a paper that was published
in the New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 329, no. 10):
their paper was remarkable for having 100 times as many
authors as pages !!
- Peter Fong's experiment in which he fed Prozac to clams
(Ig Nobel Biology Prize, 1998).
- Robert Matthews's explication of whether buttered toast
always falls on the buttered side (Ig Nobel Physics Prize,
- Harold Hillman's report on "The Possible Pain Experienced
during Execution by Different Methods" (Ig Nobel Peace Prize,
- Airtight Underwear (2001) Under-Ease, airtight
underwear with a charcoal flatulence filter. Buck Weimer,
a psychotherapist from Pueblo, Colo., says he was inspired
six years ago, after a huge Thanksgiving dinner, when his
bedroom got a little gassy. "I don't mind the jokes,"
Weimer says, but folks like his wife, who suffers from inflammatory
bowel syndrome, can really benefit from Under-Ease.
- Jerald Bain and Kerry Siminoski's examination of "The
Relationship among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size"
(Ig Nobel Statistics Prize, 1998).
- Jacques Benveniste (Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize, 1991 and
1998) and his discoveries that water molecules remember
things and that the memories can be transmitted over telephone
- Louis Kervran (Ig Nobel Physics Prize, 1993) and his discovery
that the calcium in chickens' eggshells is created by a
process of cold fusion.
- Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita (Ig
Nobel Psychology Prize, 1995) and their achievement in training
pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso
and those of Monet.
- Richard Seed (Ig Nobel Economics Prize, 1997) and his
plan to clone himself and other human beings.
- Intimate Zipper Injuries (1993) Three doctors at a Navy
Hospital in San Diego received their Ig Nobel for a 1990
research report, "Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped
Penis." Unless you've had such an injury, you'll never
know the importance of such research. Moreover, our boys
in the Navy deserve all the protection we can afford.
- The Wheel (2001) Yes the wheel! Last year, John
Keogh of Australia patented it. Actually, he patented the
"Circular Transportation Device" to demonstrate
that, perhaps, there are some problems with patent laws.
The Igs are organized by the science humor magazine Annals
of Improbable Research (AIR), and co-sponsored by: the Harvard
Computer Society; the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association;
the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students. A book
is now available with the best of Improbable Research.
Best of Annals of Improbable Research
Marc, Marc Abrahams (Editor)
"Science is too human, too much fun, and too important
not to laugh at it." The Annals of Improbable
Research (and its predecessor, the Journal of Irreproducible
Results) has been making fun of science and scientists