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Home > iSGTW - 7 April 2010 > Link - Ignobels


Link of the Week: Ignobel

At the last prize ceremony, Public Health Prize winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention — 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. She is assisted by actual, bona fideNobel laureates. From left to right:  Wolfgang Ketterle (2001, Nobel Prize in Physics, for work on Bose-Einstein condensates), Orhan Pamuk (2006,  Literature), and Paul Krugman (2008, Economics). Image courtesy Alexey Eliseev

Sure, we’ve all heard about the Nobel Prizes, awarded for research in physics, medicine, peace, and other areas of study.

But what about the Ignobels?

Awarded every year at about the same time as their more illustrious counterpart, the “Iggies” are given for “Research which makes people laugh and then think.”

Over the years, the Iggies have grown in acceptabiliy, if not respectability, and their awards ceremony — held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre — include some bemused actual Nobel laureates.

A columnist from Nature wrote that “The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar.”

The latest prize ceremony, otherwise known as the “19th First Annual,” includes an award for economics, given to “The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa. And for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.”

The Ignobel Peace Prize went to Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

(For the answer, see their paper in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.)


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