My top-list of Ig Nobel Prize winners

This week we will hold the last research group seminar of the season before summer break and we will do a different seminar. For this occasion, we’ll do a chill & sci-fun seminar in which we’ll bring together fun scientist articles while having vermouth.

A colleague of mine has shared with us the list of Ig Nobel Prizes, a parody of the Nobel Prizes, in which scientists are awarded each year in mid-September for ten achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”.

Here’s my top14:

  • Physics (1996) – Presented to Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy’s Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.[ref]
  • Biology (1997) – Presented to T. Yagyu and his colleagues from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, the Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and the Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic, for measuring people’s brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavours of gum.[ref]
  • Physics (1998) – Presented to 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.[ref]
  • Literature (1999) – Presented to the British Standards Institution for its six-page specification (BS 6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea.
  • Science Education (2000) – Presented to the Kansas State Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton’s theory of gravitation, Faraday’s and Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur’s theory that germs cause disease.
  • Physics (2001) – Presented to David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts, for his partial explanation of the shower-curtain effect: a shower curtain tends to billow inwards while a shower is being taken.[ref]
  • Peace (2004) – Presented to Daisuke Inoue of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.
  • Mathematics (2006): Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, for calculating the number of photographs that must be taken to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.[ref]
  • Physics (2006): Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, for their analysis that explains why uncooked spaghetti breaks into several pieces when it is bent.[ref]
  • Peace (2009): Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali, and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining whether it is better to be hit on the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.[ref]
  • Psychology (2011): Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.[ref]
  • Fluid dynamics (2012): Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer for studying the dynamics of liquid sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.[ref]
  • Neuroscience (2012): Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere – even in a dead salmon.[ref]
  • Chemistry (2013): Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, Toshiyuki Nagata, and Hidehiko Kumagai, for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realized.[ref]



Featured image from Pexels – C0 license.



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