Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Ig Nobel Prize: Ridiculous triumph for crazy researchers

The Nobel Prize presentation is considered to be rather a political action than a mere official recognition of a person’s scientific merits. Together with the Nobel Prize there is The Ig Nobel Prize which is a somewhat funny event dedicated to awarding researchers for the most pointless or dubious achievements of the year.

The name of the prize speaks for its ironic context. The same way the Nobel Prize is consonant with the word ‘noble’ the name of the Ig Nobel Prize can be also translated as ‘unaffected and simple’. The Prize was instituted by the Annals of Improbable Research journal in 1991 but as its nominations were sometimes very absurd the prize got very soon incredibly popular among people having nothing to do with science.

Awarding the Ig Nobel Prize is an absolute carnival. The same way that serious things were made fun of at medieval carnivals things that take place at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies would on occasion have taken place at the Nobel Prize ceremony.

Applicants for the Ig Nobel Prize are allowed to nominate themselves. A special Ig Nobel jury consisting of people having no connection with science as well as of real Nobel Prize winners selects candidates for getting the prize from a very long list of nominees. There are just two important things that the jury has to verify in connection with the nominee: they need to find out if this person really exists and if the person has actually completed the investigation applying for the prize. The jury’s final decision is quite random.

Wearing a tail-coat is not at all a must at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. What is more, nominees are welcome to be disguised as absolute freaks wearing funny fezzes, false big noses and wigs.

The Ig Nobel Prize is awarded right a week before nominees for the Nobel Prize get their prizes. When candidates for the prize are announced and during the presentation ceremony aeroplanes made of paper soar all about the ceremony hall. When the ceremony is over a special person whose position is called ‘The Keeper of the Broom” has to clear the hall off the aeroplanes. Physician Roy Glauber is a continuous broom keeper who just once neglected the duty in 2005 when had to leave for Stockholm to get his Nobel Prize.

A speech to be pronounced at awarding the Ig Nobel Prize is to last for not more than one minute. Some candidates had their speeches consisting just of few words. When the lime limit is broken a girl named Miss Sweetie Poo appears on the scene to say ‘Please, stop! I am bored’.

Unfortunately, the funny Ig Nobel Prize does not bring much wealth to its winners. They get only simple medals made of foil or plastic jaws. What is more, the Ig Nobel Committee never compensates for money that nominees spend to get to Harvard where the prize is awarded.

The ceremony is traditionally completed with a send-off: “ If you didn’t win an award - and if you did - better luck next year”

The main goal of the Ig Nobel Prize is not to expose researchers as individuals involved in crazy researches. The organizers of the prize declare that its aim is to make people first laugh and then think, in other words to revive the interest to science among the society.

If awarding the Ig Nobel Prize may somehow undermine a researcher’s reputation the prize is given to some other applicant. In 1995, scientific consultant of the British Government Robert May asked the Ig Nobel Committee to leave the English alone as he believed that awarding the prize jeopardized other serious researches of the nation. But majority of British researchers did not share the opinion. One of the Ig Nobel nominees said that now we have a chance to laugh at investigations that seem to be strange while in old times people were faggoted for the same thing.

It is true that investigations winning the Ig Nobel Prize are not always impracticable and inadequate. Some of them may turn out to be useful for people and for the nominee as well.

Russian Yury Struchkov published 948 scientific materials within nine years (which means a publication once in four days) and thanks to the Ig Nobel Prize became a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Len Fisher who won the Ig Nobel Prize in physics in 1999 at once found an editor who agreed to publish his work teaching people how to dip cakes right.

Peter Bars who studied injuries caused by falling coconuts became a real media star after getting the Ig Nobel Prize. Within several months after the rewarding the man had an incredible number of interviews.

Deepak Chopra, the author of teaching about use of quantum physics for one’s personal happiness became a real guru for people thirsting for happiness.

Some of the investigations that in different periods won the Ig Nobel Prize are incredibly funny. The 2006 winner in chemistry: Dependence of ultrasonic speed in Cheddar cheese upon temperature. The same year winner in ornithology: Why woodpecker has no headaches.

2005 Physics: Swimmer moves quicker in water or in syrup? World: Locust activity while watching Star Wars episodes.

2004 Medicine: Country music impact upon suicide rate. Technology: Haircut for people with high temple.

2003 Physics:Analysis of efforts necessary to drag a sheep on all sorts of surface.

2002 Chemistry: Periodic table by Mendeleyev made in the shape of a four-legged periodic table.

2001 Biology: Invention of pants with a replacement charcoal filter for blocking gases. Economy: Research ‘Death as a way to curtail taxes’.

2000 World: the British Royal Fleet won the prize for ordering seamen to shout ‘Boom!’ instead of using missiles during training manoeuvres

1999 Chemistry: invention of an aerosol for underwear that may help determine if a husband was faithful or not.

1998 Physics: Use of quantum physics for achievement personal happiness. Literature: Breaking wind loud as protection from excessive fear.

1997 Entomology: Identification of insects by marks they leave on windscreen.


Translated by Maria Gousseva