ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ig Nobel Prizes-- For Overlooked Achievements, From Herring Farts to Exploding Colons

Updated on February 23, 2014
The magazine Annals of Improbable Research
The magazine Annals of Improbable Research | Source

Nobel vs Ig Nobel Prizes

In December of each year, the prestigious Nobel Prizes are awarded in Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden, honoring the world's best achievements in many different fields. In September or October of each year (since 1991) the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded for achievements not quite up to the caliber of the Nobel Committee, or up to anyone's, for that matter, but which deserve recognition for making us laugh and then, perhaps, think.

The Ig Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1991 and are organized by the Annals of Improbable Research, a magazine that takes a satirical look at standard scientific journals and is devoted to scientific humor-- the sort of magazine Leonard, Howard and Rajesh (if not Sheldon) might read in the The Big Bang Theory series. Each year, Ig Nobel prizes honor unusual or trivial achievements in ten Nobel-like categories: Peace, Medicine, Literature, Physics, etc, though changing year by year as befits the candidates.

Magnetically levitating a live frog, an experiment that earned Geim and Michael Berry the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize.
Magnetically levitating a live frog, an experiment that earned Geim and Michael Berry the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize. | Source
Slime mold-- is it solving a puzzle or thinking about which train to catch?
Slime mold-- is it solving a puzzle or thinking about which train to catch? | Source

Make 'Em Laugh But Make 'Em Think

Although the prizes can be veiled criticism (for example, a US Air Force lab won the Ig Nobel Prize for Peace for recommending research into a “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemy troops to become attracted to each other), most are for purely trivial (but humorous) accomplishments or for research with an unexpected twist. And just because it's fun doesn't necessarily mean it's a joke; Sir Andre Geim won an Ig Nobel Prize for Physics for levitating a live frog in 2000 and went on to win a Noble physics prize in 2010 for experiments with two-dimensional graphene material. Also, proof that some scientists don't have a sense of humor: a scientist with the British government requested that organizers of the Ig Noble Prizes not include any British scientists because it ridiculed genuine experiments. Then, proof that some scientists do have a sense of humor: British scientists contacted the organizers and said to take no notice of the aforementioned official.

Ira Flatow receiving the National Science Board Public Service Award in 2005.
Ira Flatow receiving the National Science Board Public Service Award in 2005. | Source

The Ceremony

The ceremony awarding the prizes is held at Harvard and broadcast live on the Internet as well as being recorded by National Public Radio to be broadcast after Thanksgiving on the radio program Science Friday with Ira Flatow. Genuine Nobel laureates present the awards and there are many running jokes, like a little girl who cries “Please stop! I'm bored.” when the proceedings start to drag and the throwing of paper airplanes on the stage. At the closing, it is customary for the emcee to say “If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!”

Some Ig Nobel Prizes Awarded in Recent Years:

  • (2013) Peace: [President of Belarus; Belarus State Police] For declaring applauding in public illegal and arresting a one-armed man for applauding.
  • (2012) Literature: [US Government General Accountability Office] For issuing a report about reports about reports that recommended the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
  • (2012) Medicine: For advising doctors performing colonoscopies on how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
  • (2011) Peace: [Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania] For demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked cars can be solved by running them over with an armored personnel carrier. See video.
  • (2010) Chemistry: For disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix.
  • (2010) Management: For demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if people were promoted at random.
  • (2010) Physics: For demonstrating that people slip and fall less often on icy sidewalks if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.
  • (2010) Medicine: For discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller coaster ride.
  • (2010) Peace: For confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
  • (2010) Transportation Planning: For using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.
  • (2009) Literature: [Ireland's police service] For writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to a Polish individual, by the name of "Prawo Jazdy" until an investigation uncovered the fact that Prawo Jazdy is the Polish term for "Driving License".
  • (2009) Medicine: [Donald L. Unger] For investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by cracking the knuckles of his left hand, but not his right hand, every day for 50 years.
  • (2009) Public Health: [Dr. Elena N. Bodnar and others] For inventing a bra that can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks. See video.
  • (2008) Cognitive Science: For discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
  • (2007) Peace: [The United States Air Force Wright Laboratory] For suggesting the research and development of a "gay bomb" to cause enemy troops to become sexually attracted to each other.
  • (2004) Biology [Various scientists] For discovering that herrings apparently communicate by farting. This later embarrassed the Swedish government who denied that herring were farting in Stockholm harbor-- it really was Russian submarines.
  • Here is a complete list of all the Ig Noble Prizes awarded.

Ig Nobel Public Health Prize: Bra Becomes Gas Masks

Mayor Received Ig Noble Peace Prize For Fighting Illegally Parked Cars


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)