Did you know that a cow who has been given a name is likely to give more milk than a cow without a name? Or the fact that while walking on an icy footpath, one is less likely to fall if he wears his socks outside his shoes? These are some of the most hilarious, sometimes even pointless but thought-provoking scientific discoveries that were made by some idle but bright mind on some insignificantly passing lazy moment of a day, while they were actually working on some other revolutionary idea. Ig Noble prizes recognize and honour such discoveries, that first make people laugh, and then makes them think.
Ig Noble Prizes are given every year, in September, in a gala ceremony in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, where the winners are given prizes by none other than the Noble Laureates for making such unusual and improbable discoveries. The event is organised by the scientific humour magazine, Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). The event is followed by the winner’s lecture in MIT. The vision is to spur people’s interest in science and innovation.
Some of the IgNoble prize winning discoveries are the famous “Stress Analysis of a strapless evening gown”, by a structural Engineer, where he points out the challenges in holding on to a strapless gown, for the designer and the wearer. The toughest part he says is how the dress has to look as though it will fall any moment, and still it doesn’t. Sir Francis Fesmire from the University Of Tennessee College Of Medicine received the IgNoble prize in 2006 for discovering the fact that “an orgasm can effectively stop hiccups”. 2009 IgNoble Peace Prize winner, Richard Stephens confirmed the belief that “swearing relieves pain”. India too has an IgNoble prize recipient, K.P. Sreekumar of Kerala Agricultural University, India, recognized for his analytical report on “Estimation of the Total Surface Area in Indian Elephants”. And the most hilarious of them all is the one for finding out that, “ostriches get sexually somewhat excited in the proximity of humans”.
The event first started in 1991 and was given to achievements made in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace. It is sometimes considered as America’s parody of the Noble Prizes by critics. But more often than not, it is given to genuine discoveries and inventions. Sir Andre Geim is the only person who won the Ig Noble Prize in 2000 and subsequently the Noble Prize in 2010.