Sounds absurd, right?
But the Ig Nobel Prize winners don’t think so. These prizes are in reality parodies to the actual Nobel Prizes. They are awarded to researchers who study and experiments on trivial things no matter how unimportant it is.
According to its committee, their aim is, “Our goal is to make people laugh, then make them think. We also hope to spur people’s curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what’s important and what’s not, and what’s real and what’s not — in science and everywhere else?”
“Ig Nobel” is a play on the word ignoble, meaning unworthy or shameful.
The Ig Nobel prizes are given every year for 10 unusual achievements or findings in scientific and socio-economic areas.
It is not as unimportant as it seems. One time Andre Geim and his partner Michael Berry won the 2001 Ig Nobel prize for magnetically suspending a frog in air.
Later Andre went on to win 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on graphene.
Though it may seem that the Ig Nobel committee feeds on human tendency to do stupidity when there is practically nothing to do, it has some depth in their thinking. They support the fact that no research, good or bad, worthy or useless, which is done in the name of science, should be considered as a waste of time.
Some of the inventions and researches that have won Ig Nobel prizes so far are:
- A bra that can be used as a gas mask in case of emergency.
- For finding out the fact that cows are more likely to stand up the longer it has been lying down and once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict when it will lie down again.
- For discovering that if one has an itch on the left side of the body then s/he can relieve it by scratching the right side of the body by looking in the mirror.
- For discovering that while having sex in the missionary position, the male sex organ bends in a boomerang-like shape.
- Juan and Joseph won the Ig Nobel in Linguistics for discovering that sometimes rats are unable to distinguish between Dutch and Japanese recordings when played backwards.
- Once the Mathematics prize was given to Shreekumar and Nirmalan of Kerala for estimating the surface area of an Indian elephant.
- For inventing an alarm clock, Clocky. It was invented by Gauri Nanda, a graduate at MIT. This clock has wheels on it and it hides so that you can’t stop the alarm without getting off your bed.
The judges for Ig Nobel Prizes consist of many Nobel laureates, eminent scientists and doctors from around the world. The winners are invited to a gala ceremony at Harvard University and then they have to give lectures on their discoveries in MIT.
Next time you see a child playing with mud and mixing all kinds of lubricant in it, don’t stop them from doing so. S/He may, in future, be the recipient of an Ig Nobel at least, if not a Nobel Prize.