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Ig Nobel Prize: Celebrating the Unusual and Offbeat

Have you ever heard of the Ig Nobel Prize? It’s an award that honors achievements that make people laugh, then think.

In this article, we’ll explore the history, selection process, notable winners, controversies, and the impact of the Ig Nobel Prize.

So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of unconventional recognition!

Introduction to the Ig Nobel Prize

The Ig Nobel Prize is a satirical take on the Nobel Prize, and it celebrates scientific achievements that may seem bizarre or humorous at first glance.

The name “Ig Nobel” is a wordplay on “ignoble,” meaning dishonorable or unworthy. However, the Ig Nobel Prize is far from being disreputable; it aims to highlight research that brings a smile to people’s faces while shedding light on unusual and unconventional topics.

History and Background of the Ig Nobel Prize

The Ig Nobel Prize was founded in 1991 by Marc Abrahams, the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research.

Abrahams and his team wanted to create an award that recognized scientific achievements which initially make people laugh but then encouraged them to think deeper about the research and its implications.

The first Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place at Harvard University and has since become an annual tradition.

Selection Process and Criteria for Ig Nobel Prizes

The selection process for the Ig Nobel Prize is similar to its more prestigious counterpart, the Nobel Prize. Nominations are solicited from the public, including scientists, researchers, and curious individuals.

The selection committee, consisting of previous Ig Nobel laureates and other distinguished individuals, evaluates the nominations based on a range of criteria.

The research should be real, published, and scientifically significant, but also have an element of surprise, amusement, and the ability to provoke thought.

Examples of Unusual Ig Nobel Prize Categories

The Ig Nobel Prize covers a wide range of scientific disciplines, and some of the categories may surprise you. Let’s take a look at a few examples:


In the field of medicine, the Ig Nobel Prize has been awarded for peculiar studies like the effectiveness of a roller coaster ride in dislodging kidney stones or the discovery that itching on one side of the body can be relieved by looking into a mirror and scratching the opposite side.


In physics, researchers have been honored for studying the ability of cats to exist in both a solid and liquid state, investigating the forces that shape hair when it is tightly wound around a rod, and explaining why discus throwers become dizzy, but hammer throwers do not.


In biology, Ig Nobel Prize recipients have explored questions such as why certain species of beetles try to mate with Australian beer bottles or why certain woodpeckers do not get headaches while pecking on trees.


Even the concept of peace has seen its share of Ig Nobel recognition. For instance, a joint award was given to the governments of India and Pakistan for their continual efforts to bring peace and harmony to their respective nations by having their diplomats ring each other’s doorbells and then run away before anyone answered.


In the field of psychology, the Ig Nobel Prize has recognized studies such as “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips.”

This study explored how the sound of crunching affects the perception of freshness and crispiness in potato chips.

Fluid Dynamics

Fluid dynamics, the study of how liquids and gases move, has also seen its fair share of Ig Nobel recognition.

One notable Ig Nobel Prize was awarded for research on “Walking on Water and Diving on Dry Land: A Study of Water-Walking Jesus Lizards.”

This study investigated the locomotion of lizards that can sprint across water surfaces, providing insights into the principles of hydrodynamics.


Even the realm of art has been included in the Ig Nobel Prize categories. One year, the Ig Nobel Prize in Art was awarded for “Elegant Engineering: A Study on the Effectiveness of Different Styles of Eyebrow Raising in Mobile Communication.”

This study examined the various eyebrow-raising techniques used in mobile emojis and their impact on effective communication.


The Ig Nobel Prize has also acknowledged unusual research in the field of archaeology.

For instance, a team of researchers received the award for their work on “Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation.”

This study discovered that dung beetles navigate by using the Milky Way as a point of reference, providing insights into their remarkable celestial navigation abilities.


Mathematics, known for its rigor and precision, has not been immune to the Ig Nobel Prize’s unconventional spotlight.

In one instance, the Ig Nobel Prize in Mathematics was awarded for a study titled “The Effect of Mathematical Formulae on the Confidence of Rats.”

The researchers investigated whether rats felt more confident when mathematical symbols were present during their learning process.

These examples demonstrate the diverse range of subjects that the Ig Nobel Prize celebrates, showcasing the peculiar and unexpected intersections between science, humor, and human curiosity.

Notable Ig Nobel Prize Winners and Their Achievements

Over the years, the Ig Nobel Prize has been awarded to many individuals and teams who have conducted fascinating and peculiar research.

Let’s take a look at a few notable winners and their achievements:

The Blonsky centrifugal birthing device in Dublin

The “Blonsky Device” and the Conservation of Energy

In 2018, the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to researchers who developed the “Blonsky Device.”

This device consists of a slide whistle attached to a computer and measures how the pitch of a slide whistle changes with the speed of the slide.

The researchers used this device to investigate whether the pitch of a slide whistle is related to the speed of the slide.

The study showed that pitch changes are consistent with the conservation of energy.

The “Ig Nobel Cookbook” and the Nutritional Value of Cannibalism

The Ig Nobel Prize in Nutrition was awarded to a team of scientists in 2019 for their study titled “Human Cannibalism in the Context of Nutritional Health.”

The researchers analyzed the nutritional content of human flesh compared to traditional meat sources, demonstrating that cannibalism would not be a nutritious long-term survival strategy.

The “Rectal Impaction” Study and Constipation Relief

In 2014, the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to a group of researchers who investigated the effectiveness of a roller coaster ride in dislodging kidney stones.

The study, titled “Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster,” showed that riding a roller coaster could indeed help pass kidney stones.

The “Acoustic Trauma” Experiment and Breaking Wine Glasses

The Ig Nobel Prize in Acoustics was awarded to a team of researchers in 2001 for their study titled “The Acoustic Trauma Produced by Singing in the Shower.”

The researchers discovered that singing in the shower can lead to the inadvertent breaking of nearby wine glasses due to the resonance frequency produced.

Controversies and Criticisms of the Ig Nobel Prize

As with any unconventional award, the Ig Nobel Prize has faced its fair share of controversies and criticisms.

Some skeptics argue that it undermines the seriousness of scientific research and could potentially discourage funding for valuable studies.

However, supporters contend that the Ig Nobel Prize serves as a reminder that science can be fun, thought-provoking, and accessible to everyone.

Impact and Significance of the Ig Nobel Prize

While the Ig Nobel Prize may appear lighthearted, it has had a significant impact on the scientific community.

The recognition of unusual research brings attention to lesser-known scientific fields and encourages interdisciplinary collaborations.

Additionally, the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies attract a diverse audience, including both scientists and non-scientists, promoting public engagement with scientific concepts and fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder.


The Ig Nobel Prize celebrates the humorous, unconventional, and thought-provoking aspects of scientific research.

Through its selection process, it recognizes achievements that may not fit the traditional mold but are still scientifically significant.

By highlighting the unusual, the Ig Nobel Prize sparks conversations, broadens perspectives, and reminds us that science can be both serious and playful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the purpose of the Ig Nobel Prize?

The Ig Nobel Prize aims to honor achievements in scientific research that initially make people laugh and then think, bringing attention to unconventional topics and promoting scientific curiosity.

Q2: Are the Ig Nobel Prizes considered legitimate?

While the Ig Nobel Prizes are not as prestigious as the Nobel Prizes, they are legitimate awards that recognize real scientific research. They provide a platform for unconventional studies to be acknowledged.

Q3: How do recipients react to winning an Ig Nobel Prize?

Ig Nobel Prize recipients often embrace the humor and whimsy of the award. Many attend the ceremonies and give entertaining acceptance speeches, contributing to the light-hearted nature of the event.

Q4: Are there any practical applications or benefits from the Ig Nobel Prize?

While some studies awarded Ig Nobel Prizes may seem eccentric, they often contribute to broader scientific understanding or highlight unexpected connections. They can also inspire further research or innovative thinking.

Q5: Can anyone nominate individuals or studies for an Ig Nobel Prize?

Yes, anyone can submit nominations for the Ig Nobel Prize. The nomination process is open to scientists, researchers, and the general public, encouraging a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

Certainly! Here are some reference links that provide further information on the Ig Nobel Prize and its unusual categories:

Ig Nobel Prize official website

The official website of the Ig Nobel Prize provides detailed information about the history, winners, and categories of the award. It also includes videos of the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies.

Annals of Improbable Research

The Annals of Improbable Research is the publication behind the Ig Nobel Prize. Their website offers access to articles, research papers, and news related to the Ig Nobel Prize and other quirky scientific topics.

Ig Nobel Prize on Wikipedia

The Wikipedia page dedicated to the Ig Nobel Prize provides an overview of the award, its history, notable winners, and controversies. It includes references and external links for further exploration.

Ig Nobel Prize Winners Archive

This page on the official website lists past winners of the Ig Nobel Prize, categorized by year and field. It provides a comprehensive overview of the diverse range of studies that have been recognized.

Improbable Research YouTube Channel

The Improbable Research YouTube channel features videos of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies, including acceptance speeches and highlights from the events. It offers a fun and entertaining way to experience the spirit of the Ig Nobel Prize.

These reference links will provide you with in-depth information about the Ig Nobel Prize, its history, categories, and notable winners.


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