Ig Nobel Awards
A moment from the 2006 Ig Nobel Awards ceremony. Image: Jeff.Dlouhy/Flickr/CC BY

The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced Thursday in a ceremony held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. Winners of the annual award for improbable scientific research went to such unlikely studies as why a certain beetle mates with a certain type of beer bottle and why discus throwers get dizzy from spinning around.

Laugh and then think

The 21-year-old annual Ig Nobel awards are an American parody of the Nobel Prize. The award honors unlikely or trivial achievements in science. The stated purpose of the awards is to “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The awards are sponsored by the humorous scientific journal, Annals of Improbable Research.

The irreverent ceremony features funny hats, paper plane flying, a little girl berating the winners and other forms of wackiness. The prize has become regarded more and more as an honor in the scientific community. Seven of this years winners traveled to Harvard for last night’s ceremony at their own expense.

The 2011 award winners

This year, the physiology prize went to Anna Wilkinson of the University of Lincoln for a research paper entitled “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”

The chemistry prize was taken by a team from Shiga University in Japan for an alarm system designed to wake sleepers during a fire by flinging a precise amount of wasabi horse radish at them.

The medicine prize was shared by two teams, one European and one American, for determining that the urge to urinate causes us to make better decisions about some things and worse decisions about others.

Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo snagged the psychology prize for his research on why humans sigh.

Stanford University’s John Perry took the literature award for his paper “The Theory of Structured Procrastination,” which demonstrates how to get some things done while putting other things off.

The biology prize was awarded to Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for studying why a certain type of beetle likes to try to mate with a certain kind of bumpy Australian beer bottle.

Philippe Perrin was awarded the physics prize for his work ascertaining why discus throwers get dizzy.

The peace prize went to the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, Arturas Zuokas, for determining that the problem of illegally parked cars can be solved by flattening them with an armored tank.

John Senders of the University of Toronto won the public safety award for his research on the hazards of maneuvering on a major highway while the sun visor repeatedly flaps in the driver’s face.

The mathematics prize was shared by a host of doom predictors from Pat Robertson to Elizabeth Clare. All of them falsely predicted the end of the world, proving, says the judges, that one needs to be cautious when making mathematical calculations and assumptions.

‘Better luck next year’

The ceremony concluded with Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, saying: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize tonight — and especially if you did — better luck next year.”

The real Nobel Prize ceremony will be held in Sweden next week.


Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/ig-nobel-award-winners-do_n_987797.html
Improbable.com: http://improbable.com/ig/winners/
BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15117051


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