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Ig Nobel Prize winners announced

5th October 2011

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The 2011 Ig Nobel prize winners were awarded last week for ten achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

2011 Ig Nobel PrizeEach year, within a few weeks of the announcement of the genuine Nobel Prize winners, the winners of the Ig Nobel Prizes are also announced.

“The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative – and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology,” says the Ig Nobel website.

A list of this year’s winner included:

Slow Yawn

Physiology Prize: Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl, and Ludwig Huber for their study “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”

Rude Awakening

Chemistry Prize: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi, and Junichi Murakami of Japan, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

Yellow Belly

Medicine Prize: Mirjam Tuk, Debra Trampe, and Luk Warlop; and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder, and Robert Feldman, and Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things – but worse decisions about other kinds of things, when they have a strong urge to urinate


Psychology Prize: Karl Halvor Teigen for trying to understand why in everyday life, people sigh.

Do it tomorrow

Literature Prize: John Perry for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: “to be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.”


Biology Prize: Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle


Physics Prize: Phillippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru, and Herman Kingma for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don’t.

False Prophets

Mathematics Prize: Dorothy Martin (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping (who predicted the world would end on October 21, 2011) for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations

Tank-you very much

Peace Prize: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank.

Blind Corner

Public Safety Prize: John Senders, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

The National Student’s favourite winners were the Japanese creators of the wasabi alarm. You may laugh, but the creators are hoping such an alarm would allow people with hearing disabilities to escape danger.

Although the Ig Nobel Prizes don’t offer the winners the same level of financial reward as the real Nobel Prize, the ceremony is nevertheless engineered to be as much of a successful parody as possible.

Real Nobel winners present the ceremony, and some even take part in a ‘win-a-date-with-a-Nobel-laureate’ contest.

Winners are permitted a maximum of 60 seconds for their acceptance speeches, which is enforced by an 8-year-old girl called ‘Miss Sweetie Poo’ who shouts “Please stop, I’m bored!” if speeches run over.

But don’t think that the awards are nothing but fun and games – there are a host of deadly serious scientists that participate. In 2000, Andre Geim of the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and Michael Berry of Bristol University used magnets to levitate a frog. Geim later went on to win the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for his research into graphene.

If only the majority of science lectures were that interesting, eh!

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