The Ig Nobel Prize – Celebrating Uncanny Scientific Discoveries


Every year, we hear about the worlds most talented and innovative minds winning an award called ‘Nobel Prize.’ It’s a most prestigious award for hopeful thinkers, and comes with a huge cash prize. But, there is a satirical version to this most esteemed accolade. It is called ‘Ig Nobel.’ The awards are organized by ‘Annals of Improbable Research Magazine (AIR).’ The philosophy behind these awards is to ‘honor discoveries that make people laugh, then think.’ The ceremony happens around the announcement of Nobel Prize, at the Sanders Theater, Harvard University, in Cambridge.

The first Ig Nobels were created by Marc Abrahams in the year 1991. Around 1990, Marc surprisingly became the editor of magazine titled ‘The Journal of Irreproducible Results,’ which was started (in 1955) by two eminent, amusing Israeli scientists, Alex Kohn and Harry Lipkin. After becoming the magazine’s editor, he was beleaguered by people, who wanted his help in winning a Nobel Prize. He took note of the weird scientific discoveries and thought they deserve a prize. So, he talked to his pals in helping him out to start an award ceremony. Alex Kohn suggested the word “Ig Nobel”

Marc Abrahms

Marc Abrahams

Each year, the accolades are given in different categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, public health, engineering, biology, Psychology and interdisciplinary research. Don’t think that this is just absurd event to stage a spoof. Some of the researches awarded here are published in reputable journals, and the awards are presented by real Nobel Laureates. Most often, the awards are given to discoveries that have some humorous or unexpected aspect. The AIR magazines’ website gives a perfect explanation: “Good achievements can also be odd and funny. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity and a lot of bad science gets revered because of its absurdity.”

Let’s take a look at some of the weird discoveries, this year: In the medicine category, a Japanese and Chinese team won an award, who proved that a mice after receiving heart-transplant surgery survive longer (extra 20 days) listening to Opera, blasting from the speakers; Eleanor, Marijan and Raphael Lee invented a brassiere that could be used in an event of chemical attack. It can be quickly converted into a pair of protective mask; a couple of Italians found that man can walk on water, but only in moon. They selected volunteers and suspended them above a pool, which was simulated with different gravity fields. On Earth gravitational field, they experienced splashy landing, but on Moon’s they skipped across the pond, even though there is no water on moon.


The 2013 Ig Nobel Ceremony was conducted in the presence of 1,200 ardent fans (the room allows audience of only that number) and thousand watched it via live video stream. The prize winners must travel at their own expense. They are welcomed by this warm crowd with a wild applause and paper airplanes. Physics professor Roy Glauber was the official ‘Keeper of the Broom.’ His job was to collect the paper airplanes that are thrown into stage. In 2005, he was not present, because he went to Stockholm to get a genuine Nobel Prize. The IgNobel is a plaque showcasing a hammer sealed inside a transparent glass box, with a sign that says, “in case of emergency, use hammer to break glass.” The ceremony isn’t a mundane one. They have a lot of running jokes: If a winner goes for a long speech, a little girl repeatedly cries out, ‘Please stop: I’m bored,’ in a high-pitched voice; There was also a cash prize – an amount of ten trillion dollars, in Zimbabwean currency (the Zimbabwean currency notes are no longer in use).


The Ig Nobel awards are a veiled criticism to trivial scientific research. It aims to highlight the fact that science can be fun (isn’t only about awards) and exhibits the extreme measures people will take in their quest for knowledge.


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