Ig Nobel Prize

Ig Nobel Prize

The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October — around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced — for ten achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." Organized by the scientific humor magazine "Annals of Improbable Research" ("AIR"), they are presented by a group that includes genuine Nobel Laureates at a ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theater.


The first Ig Nobels were awarded in 1991, at that time for discoveries "that cannot, or should not, be reproduced." Ten prizes are awarded each year in many categories, including the Nobel Prize categories of physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace, but also other categories such as public health, engineering, biology, and interdisciplinary research. With the exception of three prizes in the first year (Administratium, Josiah Carberry, and Paul DeFanti), the Ig Nobel Prizes are for genuine achievements. (See List of Ig Nobel Prize winners)

The awards are sometimes veiled criticism, as in the two awards given for homeopathy research, prizes in "science education" to Kansas and Colorado state boards of education for their stance regarding the teaching of evolution, and the prize awarded to "Social Text" after the Sokal Affair. Most often, however, they draw attention to scientific articles that have some humorous or unexpected aspect. Examples range from the discovery that the presence of humans tends to sexually arouse ostriches, to the statement that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell, to research on the "five-second rule," a tongue-in-cheek belief that food dropped on the floor won't become contaminated if it is picked up within five seconds.


The name is a play on the word "" ("characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness") and the name "Nobel" after Alfred Nobel. The official pronunciation used during the ceremony is IPAEng|ˌɪɡnoʊˈbɛl ("ig no-BELL"). It is not pronounced like the word "ignoble" (IPAEng|ɪɡˈnoʊbəl, "ig-NOH-buhl").

In Swedish, IG is short for "icke godkänt", a grade in school similar to F, or fail.

In Russian, the name is usually translated as "Шнобелевская премия" (Shnobel Prize)."


The prizes are presented by genuine Nobel laureates, originally at a ceremony in a lecture hall at MIT but now in Harvard University's Sanders Theater. The ceremony is followed a few days later by the Ig Informal Lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which laureates have the opportunity to explain their achievements and their relevance to the general public. If such explanations become too longwinded, they are interrupted by the cries of Miss Sweety Poo (or Sweety-Poo), a little girl who repeatedly cries out "Please stop. I'm bored" in a high-pitched voice. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,1588824,00.html guardian.co.uk] - Infinity and so much more] The awards ceremony is traditionally closed with the words: "If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!"

The ceremony is co-sponsored by the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.

Throwing paper airplanes onto the stage was a long-standing tradition at the Ig Nobels, changed at the 2006 ceremony because of "security concerns." In past years, physics professor Roy Glauber has swept the stage clean of the airplanes as the official "Keeper of the Broom". In 2005, Glauber could not attend the awards as he was traveling to Stockholm to claim a genuine Nobel Prize in Physics.

The "Parade of Ignitaries" brings various supporting groups into the hall. At the 1997 ceremonies, a team of "cryogenic sex researchers" distributed a pamphlet titled "Safe Sex at Four Kelvin". Delegates from the Museum of Bad Art are often on hand to display some pieces from their collection, showing that bad art and bad science go hand in hand.

Actor Russell Johnson, known for his portrayal of The Professor on the TV series "Gilligan's Island", once participated in the award presentation ceremony as "The Professor Emeritus of Gilligan's Island".

Tours and outreach

The ceremony is recorded and broadcast on National Public Radio and is shown live over the Internet. The recording is broadcast every year, on the Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving, on the public radio program "Science Friday". In recognition of this, the audience will repeatedly chant the first name of the radio show's host, Ira Flatow.

Two books have been published as of 2006 with write ups on some of the winners: "The Ig Nobel Prize" (2002, US paperback ISBN 0-452-28573-9, UK paperback ISBN 0-7528-4261-7) and "The Ig Nobel Prize 2" (2005, US hardcover ISBN 0-525-94912-7, UK hardcover ISBN 0-7528-6461-0) which was later retitled "The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself" (ISBN 0-452-28772-3).

An Ig Nobel Tour has traveled to the United Kingdom and Australia several times.


In 1995, Robert May, Baron May of Oxford, the chief scientific adviser to the British government, requested that the organizers no longer award Ig Nobel prizes to British scientists, claiming that the awards risked bringing "genuine" experiments into ridicule. However, many British researchers dismissed Lord May's pronouncements, and the British journal "Chemistry and Industry" in particular printed an article rebutting his arguments.

See also

* List of Ig Nobel Prize winners

;Other mock awards:
* Golden Raspberry Awards for bad film work
* Darwin Awards for sublimely idiotic self-removal from the gene pool
* Pigasus Award for paranormal fraud (U.S.)
* Bent Spoon Award for paranormal fraud (Australia)
* Stella Awards for outrageous lawsuits
* Bad Sex in Fiction Award for exactly that


External links

* [http://improbable.com/ig/ Ig Nobel home page]
* [http://www.improb.com/ig/ig-pastwinners.html List of past winners, with reasons for prize]

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