The Ig Noble prizes

In Unit 6 of our textbook we read about quirky research projects. Did you know that there are  parallel prizes to the Nobel prizes but for the quirkiest inventions. They are called Ig Nobel Awards as a pun on ignoble being  the opposite of noble.

Last September they celebrated the 20th anniversary of Ig Nobel Awards at Harvard University where Improbable Research granted 10 Ig Awards to some of the most hilarious scientific studies you will ever hear about.

They are laughable, but then they make you think, which is the main objective of the Ig Nobels.  So, laugh and then think as you read about these winning discoveries.

1. The Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine Asthma?  Keep riding the roller coaster!: image via simplemlmsponsoring.comAsthma? Keep riding the roller coaster!

Psychologists Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest from the University of Amsterdam found that breathing difficulties of asthmatics were actually more intense before their first roller coaster ride than after repeated roller coaster rides.

2. The Ig Nobel Prize in Physics

Physicist Lianne Parkin and her team of researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand, won the Ig in Physics for the discovery that people are less likely to slip on ice if they wear socks over their shoes. (published in The New Zealand Medical Journal)

3. The Ig Nobel Prize in BiologyShort nosed fruit bats go for it!: image via nosed fruit bats go for it!

British biologist from Bristol University, along with colleagues in China, discovered the first non-human species to engage in fellatio – the short-nosed fruit bat.  Also, that the females who perform fellatio on their mates engage in longer periods of copulation.  Does oral sex increase pleasure in short-nosed fruit bats?  (study published in Plos One)

4. The Ig Nobel Prize in Peace

Richard Stephens and his team of researchers from Keele University swore that swearing helps relieve pain perception as opposed to neutral words; but swearing also increased heart rate. (published in the Neuro Report)

Whale double blow holes.: image via becci.comWhale double blow holes.: image via

5.   The Ig Nobel Prize in Engineering

The collection of fluid ejected from whale blowholes was the project selected for the engineering prize.  Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and team from the Institute of Zoology, London, attached petri dishes to the underside of small, remotely controlled helicopters that hover over the whales’ blowholes to collect the fluid.  (published in Animal Conservation)

6. The Ig Nobel Prize in Transportation

Mark Fricher and Dan Bebber from Oxford University, working with Japanese scientists, created a biomimetic model of an effective railway network based on the way slime mould grows and affects the linking of porridge oats. (study published in Science Magazine)

Beards can screw up lab research results.: image from superstock.comBeards can screw up lab research results.: image from

7. The Ig Nobel Prize in Public Health

Thank goodness that Manuel Barbeito from the Industrial Health and Safety Office in Maryland discovered that beards collect microbes; otherwise we’d have bearded scientists in the lab, which would, of course, make them “a potential laboratory hazard.” This study was conducted in 1967, thank heavens!  (study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology)

8. The Ig Nobel Prize in Management

Now this is a totally counterintuitive management style, but mathematician Alessadro Pluchino and his team at the University of Catania used a game theory approach to demonstrate that companies are more efficient when workers are promoted randomly, rather than being promoted because of competence. (study published in

9. The Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Did you know that oil and water do mix? Eric Adams, MIT, and other researchers from BP won this prize for their experiments in oil spills, that showed that oil and water behave differently in deep oil spills. (The reference included by Improbable Research (, unfortunately, does not refer to Adam’s study, but I think this may be it.)

Bonus money?: image via crooksandliars.comBonus money?: image via

10.  The Ig Nobel Prize in Economics

This prize went jointly to “The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG and Magnetar for ‘creating and promoting new ways to invest money – ways that maximise financial gain and minimise financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.’ ” (unpublished study)

Hope you had fun reading the 2010 Ig Award list.  If you would like to have more fun, check out the 2009 Ig Award winners.

(adapted from Inventors spot)

Now can you think of something worth of the Ig Nobel prize for English Learning. We look forward to your entries. Approx 100 words.

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