Ig®Nobel Prizes, 2012

September 23, 2012

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.

IgNobel Prelude

September 20, 2012

I have always had a certain fondness for slightly off-the-wall events, and one of my favorite annual events is the Ig®Nobel Prizes, awarded by the journal Annals of Improbable Research.

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Although there are generally one or two awards that are based primarily on spectacular stupidity, most of them are given for real, published research that meets the fundamental criterion above.  I’ve also enjoyed blogging about the Prizes, since I started this blog in 2009; my posts about the awards are here: 20112010, and 2009..

This year’s Prizes are scheduled to be awarded this evening at the usual venue, Sanders Theater at Harvard University in Cambridge MA.

In the meantime, Wired has an article and photo gallery from previous years’ IgNobel awards.

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