This morning, William Campbell, Satoshi Omura, and Youyou Tu, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for their work on parasitic diseases. Though the brilliant scientists certainly deserve the honor for their groundbreaking research, for most of us, reading about their and the achievements of other Nobel laureates can be overwhelming and perhaps even a little boring. However, the same cannot be said about the winners of the IG Nobel Prize that celebrates 'fun' scientific research.
Bestowed for discoveries that 'first make one laugh and then think', the awards are the brainchild of the publishers of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine. The organizers who began handing out the ten spoof Nobel prizes in 1990 say they want to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.
This year's event took place on Saturday, September 19th, at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. As usual, the room was filled to capacity with people eager to applaud the brave scientists that dare do 'laughable' research.
Among this year's lucky recipients was a team of scientists led by Colin Raston who won the Chemistry award for figuring out how to partially un-boil an egg! Mark Dingemanse and Nick J Enfild from the Netherlands won the Literature prize for discovering that the word 'huh' exists in every language and also for not knowing why that was the case.
If that is not enough to bring a smile to your face how about this? The organizers awarded the Economic prize to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police for offering to pay police officers extra cash if they refuse to take bribes! Not surprisingly, no representative from the force showed up to claim the 'Nobel' prize!
And while coughing or even clearing one's throat would be considered a sign of disrespect during the presentation of the real Nobel Prizes, at this event, everything is acceptable. In fact, one of the most fun traditions is that of real Nobel laureates throwing paper airplanes at the IG Nobel laureates.
Another ritual? Stopping winners from putting the audience to sleep with long acceptance speeches with the help of Miss Sweetie Poo, a little girl who repeatedly cries out, "Please stop: I'm bored", in a high-pitched voice!
Though the IG Nobel Prize ceremony which ends with the words, "If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!" may not offer the prestige or the cash of its more serious counterpart, it does make scientific research appear a lot more fun!