First Make People Laugh; Then Make Them Think


Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (a brassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony
Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (a brassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony

The “Ig Nobel Prizes” are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year for achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”. They are presented by a group that includes genuine Nobel Laureates. Those who receive the award get the opportunity in a ceremony to explain their achievements. If the explanation goes too long or becomes too complicated, the voice of a little girl named Miss Sweety Poo will cry out, “Please stop! I’m bored” in a high pitched voice.

Recent Ig Nobel Laureates include:

  • In Public Health: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
  • In Physics: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, of Japan, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.
  • In Medicine: Brian Witcombe from Gloucester, for his research on “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects” and his findings that side effects include “sore throats”;
  • In Neuroscience: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, from China and Canada, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
  • In Linguistics: Juan Manuel Toro, Josp B Tobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles of the University of Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards;
  • In Nutrition: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, of Spain, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”
  • In Peace: Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for its research on a gay bomb which could cause enemy soldiers to become irresistible to one another and lose the will to fight. The Laboratory spent $7.5 million in the U.S. for this research.

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