Ig Nobel Prizes 2014

Ig Nobel Prizes 2014

First They Make You Laugh, Then They Make You Think

That is, more or less, the tagline of the Ig Nobel Prizes, a wacky offshoot of the famous Nobel Prizes. Basically, these awards are given for scientific research which is interesting and useful, usually humorous, but a little bit weird. Most of the winners are genuine scientists, the event is held at Harvard University and the presenters are actual Nobel laureates. Ten prizes are awarded each year, although the categories aren’t always the same.

Even though most winners come to claim their awards in person, some prizes are actually subtle and not-so-subtle criticisms directed at the recipients. Examples include Daryl Gates, former LA police chief who won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for his poor handling of the 1992 LA riots or the Kansas State Board of Education winning the Science Education prize for its stance against evolution.

If you’ve never heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes, almost every winner is an interesting read and here you have the full list. However, with the 2014 edition in the books, we felt it was worth talking about (and there’s a link to the full hour and a half ceremony at the bottom of the article in case you are interested). And, oh yeah, there’s Miss Sweetie Poo. In order to prevent the acceptance speeches from being really long and tiresome, after a few minutes a little girl called Miss Sweetie Poo comes out and starts shouting “Please stop. I’m bored.” in order to get them to stop. Here’s a Best Of:

Ok, so let’s move on to this year’s winners. The categories were Physics, Neuroscience, Psychology, Public Health, Biology, Art, Economics, Medicine, Arctic Science and Nutrition. We’re not going to go into detail for each one. You can find out all the info you want here, including links to the published works that earned these people the Ig Nobel distinction.

  • Physics: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai received the prize for measuring how much friction is created when someone slips on a banana peel.
  • Neuroscience: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee received the prize for trying to monitor what happens to people’s brains when they see Jesus’ face on toast.
  • Psychology: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons won the prize for showing that people who like to stay up late usually display more psychopathic tendencies.
  • Public Health: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried won the prize for investigating if it was “mentally hazardous” for a human to own a cat.
  • Biology: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda won the prize for documenting the fact that dogs like to align their bodies with the North-South geomagnetic field lines of the planet when they pee and poop.
  • Art: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea won the prize for measuring the pain people experienced when being shot in the hand with a laser while looking at an ugly painting compared to looking at a pretty one.
  • Economics: ISTAT – Italy’s National Institute for Statistics won the prize for “proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.”
  • Medicine: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin won the prize for developing a technique using strips of cured pork in order to treat “uncontrollable” nosebleeds.
  • Arctic Science: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl won the prize for testing reindeers’ reactions to humans dressed up as polar bears.
  • Nutrition: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga won the prize for a study called “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages”.

Those are the awards for 2014. What was your favorite? The Arctic Science Prize definitely takes it for me.



Featured image courtesy of Jeff Dlouhy.