When Nobel laughs: What is Ig Nobel Prize and what are its laureates known for?

Author : Oleksandr Iliyshchenkov

Source :

Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place in US: It honors achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think
21:37, 18 September 2017

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This year, the 27th annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was held. The event, which is taking place  since 1991, has managed to please the world with "great" and "important" discoveries more than once.

For example, the physicist Mark-Antoine Fardin who became the winner of the latest award, in his study proved that cats are a liquid.

"In the liquid state, the substance occupies a certain volume and takes the form of the container in which it is located," the scientist explains in his study "On rheology of cats."

Other laureates include researcher James Heathcote, who determined that human ears grow at a rate of 0.2 mm per year; researchers Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer, who received an award in economics for proving that embraces with a crocodile reduce the attraction to gambling, and others (total - 10 nominations).

The speech of each laureate should last no more than one minute, and if someone is talking too long, an eight-year-old girl called "Miss Sweetie Poo" says: "Please, stop, I'm bored."

Thus, the "pantheon" of the funny analogue of Nobel Prize owners has increased. Since the first award ceremony, many studies and projects have already been noted. Let's get acquainted with some of them and see how it all began.

Ig Nobel Prize

The award was founded by the editor of the humorous journal of science Marc Abrahams in 1991.

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Applied mathematician Abrahams came up with Ig Nobel Prize under the pressure of circumstances.

He recalls that as soon as he became the magazine editor, crowds of enthusiasts appealed to him, eager to go to Stockholm at the expense of the Nobel Foundation. Abrahams tried to explain that he had nothing to do with the award, but sometimes it did not help, and he listened to the details of the allegedly great discoveries.

Abrahams observed that sometimes these researches were so non-trivial that they deserved some distinction. He gathered like-minded people and established a new prize.

With the exception of the three prizes awarded in the first year, others were awarded for real researches. The first ceremonies were held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today, Ig Nobel ceremony takes place at Harvard on the eve of the Nobel Prize.

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The name of the award Ig Nobel Prize is a word play that is consonant with the adjective ignoble, meaning "shameful".

Rules and awarding

Every year Nobel laureates in fake glasses, with false noses and similar attributes come to the ceremony to present awards to Ig Nobel laureates. The ceremony takes place in a huge lecture hall for 1166 seats at the Sanders Theater in Harvard, full of paper airplanes flying around all the time.

Each laureate receives an amount of 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars (less than 1 US dollar), as well as a medal of foil or award in the form of clapping jaws on the stand. The award is accompanied by a document certifying the receipt of the prize and signed by three Nobel Prize winners.

The awarding ceremony is broadcasted on American television and radio in several languages. It can also be watched live on the official website of the award.

Solemn event traditionally ends with the words: "If you didn't win an Ig Nobel prize tonight - and especially if you did - better luck next year."

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A few days after the ceremony, the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) hosts Ig Nobel's lectures, at which the laureates can explain their research.

It should be noted that in the Ig Nobel Committee there is an official "broom keeper" post. It is occupied by physicist Roy Glauber, whose duty it is to clean the hall from paper airplanes.

In 2005, he was unable to fulfill his duty, because he was in Stockholm receiving a real Nobel Prize.

Some of Ig Nobel winners

In 1993, Robert Faid of Greenville, South Carolina received this award in mathematics, for calculating the exact odds (710,609,175,188,282,000 to 1) that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist.

In 1995, the award in medicine received Marcia E. Buebel, David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa, and Michael R. Boyle, for their study entitled "The Effects of Unilateral Forced Nostril Breathing on Cognition."

In 1999, award in physics went to  Dr. Len Fisher of Bristol, England for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.

 The same year, Ig Nobel prize in medicine was presented to Dr. Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, for carefully collecting, classifying, and contemplating which kinds of containers his patients chose when submitting urine samples.

Prize for peace was presented to Charl Fourie and Michelle Wong of Johannesburg, South Africa, for inventing the Blaster, a foot-pedal activated flamethrower that motorists can use against carjackers.

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In 2000, another prize for peace was given to the UK Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout "Bang!" Thus, the British treasury saves on ammunition more than a million pounds a year.

In 2002, award in biology went to Norma E. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, Phil Bowers, and D. Charles Deeming of the United Kingdom, for their report "Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches towards Humans under Farming Conditions in Britain".

In 2005, winners in economics sphere was Gauri Nanda of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for inventing Clocky, an alarm clock that runs away and hides, repeatedly, thus ensuring that people get out of bed, and thus theoretically adding many productive hours to the workday.

In 2007, Ig Nobel Prize in aviation was given to Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek from Argentina, for discovering that hamsters recover from jetlag more quickly when given Viagra.

In 2012, Japanese scientists Katsutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada became laureates of the acoustics prize - for developing a device to combat an annoying interlocutor - Speech Jammer. This device repeats the spoken words with a delay of several milliseconds, creating an echo effect. The resulting annoying noise prevents a person from talking and forcing him to shut up.

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