The Ig Nobel Prizes

Sure the real Nobel prizes get all the intention, but the Ig Nobel prizes are much, much funnier! As Nature (subs. req’d) reported:

[R]esearchers at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Ohio proposed to develop chemical aphrodisiacs that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. The idea — dubbed the ‘gay bomb’ — earned the unnamed Ohio scientists the 2007 Ig Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded at Harvard University on 4 October along with nine other prizes.


What are the Ig Nobel prizes? Awarded annually since 1991, they aim “to honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The awards themselves are handed out by actual Nobel laureates!

Other deserving 2007 winners include:

The Linguistics Prize, for example, went to researchers from the University of Barcelona in Spain for showing that rats cannot always distinguish between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards….

Investigators at the National University of Quilmes in Argentina won the Aviation Prize for determining that Viagra aids hamsters’ recovery from jet lag. A member of that team, Diego Golombek, praised his graduate students for top-flight research and “for going to the drugstore to get the Viagra”.

You can thank them later, globe-trotting hamsters!

And just so you don’t think the only way to win is by doing amusingly useless research, consider these two 2006 winners:

ORNITHOLOGY: Ivan R. Schwab, of the University of California Davis, and the late Philip R.A. May of the University of California Los Angeles, for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers don’t get headaches.

That is for something I very much want to know the answer to, since I spend so much of my time responding to the Deniers and Delayers by banging my head against the wall.

PEACE: Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant — a device that makes annoying high-pitched noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but probably not to their teachers.

Sheer genius — though I’m sorry, as Maxwell Smart would say, that he ultimately used his knowledge for evil rather than niceness.