You’ve heard of the Nobel Prizes. Every year, the greatest achievements in medicine, physics, chemistry, economics, peace and literature are awarded to much media fanfare. And that’s great – but what about the research and work being done that’s a little unusual, bizarre, or just ridiculously imaginative?
That’s where the Ig Nobel Prizes come in.
Every year since 1991, the magazine Annals of Improbable Research awards people making the strangest achievements in 10 categories, such as chemistry, medicine, engineering, psychology, literature, biology, physics, mathematics, peace, public safety and others. It’s not enough for the recipients to just have accomplished something strange, though. The slogan of the awards sums it up: “research that makes you LAUGH, and then THINK.”
Here are just some of the awards given, taken at random:
- ENGINEERING (2011): Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.
- PUBLIC HEALTH (2004): Jillian Clarke of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and then Howard University, for investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it’s safe to eat food that’s been dropped on the floor.
- SOCIOLOGY (1999): Steve Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops.
- PSYCHOLOGY: Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.
The list goes on. The award ceremony takes place at Harvard on September 20 and I’ll be bringing you the details.