Friday, September 30, 2011

Winners of the Ig® Nobel Prize

Every year the Improbable Research gives out Ig Nobel Prizes for some of the most odd and interesting scientific studies around the world. According to their website: "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

I think anything that makes people laugh and think critically at the same time is fantastic. Science research seems dull to those of us who are not scientists. I can't tell you how many times my eyes have glazed over and I've gone into some sort of scientist-droning trance when I have to attend meetings with researchers. It's nice to see that they don't all take themselves and their research so seriously.

Here are a few of my favorites:

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of JAPAN, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.
REFERENCE: US patent application 2010/0308995 A1. Filing date: Feb 5, 2009.
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Makoto Imai, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami
I can tell you right now, that a wasabi fire alarm would wake me up. It would also make it so that I couldn't see the door through my teary eyes or smell the fire with my runny nose but hey I'd be awake.

LITERATURE PRIZE: John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.
REFERENCE: "How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done," John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title "Structured Procrastination." <>
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Colleague Deborah Wilkes accepted the prize on behalf of Professor Perry.
I obviously am a master at this. 

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.  
I'm a librarian; we don't do math. This research taught me that evangelists can't do math either. Elite group or weirdos? You decide.

PEACE PRIZE: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

Check out all the winners, present and past. Which are your favorites?

Have a great weekend everyone!
photo from


  1. Ah, has Harold Camping pushed it back again? I wonder if all those poor people who were prepared to meet their makers earlier this summer are going to be on board again this time.

  2. Is this a bit like those anti-oscars.

  3. i love mathematics form i childhood now i continuing mathematics in phd .


  4. The one for procrastination is awesome!