Last Thursday evening, at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, the Annals of Improbable Research presented the 2012 Ig®Nobel Prizes,as scheduled, “for achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think“. As I’ve noted in the past, the awards are generally given for actual research that has a humorous, quirky, or slightly off-the-wall character. The official awards page has citations for the relevant articles; here are a few of my favorites from this year’s awards:
- ACOUSTICS PRIZE: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada [JAPAN] for creating the SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person’s speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay. I daresay readers here will agree that there are many possibilities for the use of this device.
- ANATOMY PRIZE: Frans de Waal [The Netherlands and USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA] for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends. I hope this does not become the next biometric panacea for identifying computer users.
- FLUID DYNAMICS PRIZE: Rouslan Krechetnikov [USA, RUSSIA, CANADA] and Hans Mayer [USA] for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee. Apparently both the size and shape of the container and the biomechanics of a person’s walking are significant factors.
- LITERATURE PRIZE: The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports. An outgrowth of work commissioned by the Department of Defense, it should perhaps also be commended for illustrating the potential pitfalls of recursive procedures.
The ceremony, as usual, featured several actual Nobel laureates to present the prizes, along with talks and a blizzard of paper airplanes.
Ars Technica also has an article on this year’s awards.