The Ig Nobel Prizes

Last week for the 24th time the yearly Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded. The ceremony took place at the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts , USA

The Ig Nobel prizes?

Here is what the supporting foundation for Improbable Research says about it:

IG Nobel prizes are awarded for research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK

This year the Ig Noble prize for physics has been given to the Japanese scientist Kiyoshi Mabuchi of Kitasato University for studying the hazards of stepping on a banana peel!  Here he is, during the official ceremony

Ig Nobel prize


Don’t underestimate his research! Here is the official paper: Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin.

A few more examples of Ig Nobel prizes.

2014 Neuroscience:  to Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

2013 Biology/Astronomy: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

2012 Medicine: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopy how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode

Click here for the complete list. In the beginning the prizes sometimes had a sarcastic undertone, like for example

1998 Physics: Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Center for Well Being, La Jolla, California, for his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness

But now it has become more serious, the prize winners eagerly travel (at their own expenses) to Harvard to attend the ceremony and the prizes are given by “real” Nobel Prize winners.

There is even one scientist who has won BOTH the Ig Nobel prize AND the Nobel prize! Andre Geim, a Soviet-born Dutch-British (!) physicist, won the Ig Nobel prize for physics in 2000 experimenting with magnets to levitate a frog. Here is a picture of the poor critter. If you are wondering how this is possible, it is because of diamagnetism

Levitating frog

Ten years later, in 2010, Geim received the Physics Nobel prize for his research about the new wonder material of graphene, a two-dimensional layer of carbon atoms.


The way he and his collaborator Novoselov managed to make a single layer of carbon atoms? They used Scotch tape!

Ok, here is one more Ig Nobel prize…:-)

2009 Public Health: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, US, for inventing a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks—one for the wearer and one to be given to a needy bystander


By the way, ever heard about the Darwin Awards?  Maybe a suitable topic for another post…:-)

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