The Ig Awards Are In

| October 20, 2015

2015-ig-nobel-winners-chalkboard-crpdThe 25th Annual Ig® Nobel Prize Ceremony was held on September 17, 2015 at Harvard University.   The Ig Noble awards are a parody on the Nobel Prizes, and “honor” achievements that make people laugh – but then make them think.  The awards are handed out in a fun filled gala for the strangest of research concepts, that seem so silly on their face, but could be the start of something new.  The awards that have gotten attention for their comedy of “honoring” the unusual, are really honoring the imaginative.

For example, the 2015 award for chemistry went to Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston of Australia  for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg (“Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies,” ChemBioChem, epub January 2015).

The prize for biology went to  Patricia Yang and David Hu of the United States and Taiwan for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (“Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014: 201402289).

The award for medicine was awarded jointly to two research groups from Japan and Slovakia for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (“Kissing Reduces Allergic Skin Wheal Responses and Plasma Neurotrophin Levels,” Physiology and Behavior, vol. 80, nos. 2-3; and  “Prevalence and Persistence of Male DNA Identified in Mixed Saliva Samples After Intense Kissing,” Forensic Science International Genetics, vol. 7, no. 1, January 2013, pp. 124–8).

The award for mathematics went to Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer of Austria and Germany, for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children (“The Case of Moulay Ismael-Fact or Fancy?” PLOS ONE, vol. 9, no. 2, 2014).

The ceremony also included an award in literature, for a study that the word “huh?” seems to exist in every human language.  (“Is ‘Huh?’ a universal word? Conversational infrastructure and the convergent evolution of linguistic items,” PLOS ONE, 2013); and a special award in economics to The Bangkok Metropolitan Police in Thailand, who came up with the idea of paying policemen a bonus if they refuse to take bribes.

The Ig awards are great fun, and the winners usually attend to receive their awards (and give funny acceptance speeches that explain what their research had really set out to do), and the awards are presented by Nobel Laureates.  Those in the audience throw paper airlines at the stage (to demonstrate the rules of physics). It is a wonderful way for science to make fun of itself, and at the same time honor the odd, the strange, the unusual ideas.

Science is the collection of data assembled slowly, until there is enough of it for someone to see a pattern, make a connection, and see the significance.  Then a new breakthrough is hailed, and what is yesterday’s Ig award is the new normal is an ever changing world.

For a complete list of winners (and past awards) and more on the awards, you can see its website here.


Category: Technology