Ig Nobel Awards Honor Wacky Scientific Research

The Ig Nobel Awards returned for their 22nd annual ceremony at Harvard University on Thursday. The awards are designed to honor the scientific achievements and discoveries of the past year that “first made people laugh, and then made them think.”

Recipients of the 2012 Ig Nobel awards included a group of scientists who calculated the mathematics that control the shape and movement of a human ponytail, a study entitled “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller,” and a company that discovered how to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

The Ig Nobel awards are a spoof of the Nobel prizes and are organized annually by the humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. 2012 winners included:

Neuroscience prize: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere – even in a dead salmon.

Physics prize: Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren and Robin Ball, for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

Peace prize: The SKN company, for using technology to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

Acoustics prize: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada 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.

Chemistry prize: Johan Pettersson for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people’s hair turned green.

Psychology prize: Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and Tulio Guadalupe, for their study entitiled “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.”

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.

Fluid dynamics prize: Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer, for studying the dynamics of liquid sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

Anatomy prize: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify specific other chimpanzees from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

Medicine prize: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimise the chance of their patients exploding.

Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobels, ended Thursday’s ceremony with the farewell statement that is now used every year: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize tonight – and especially if you did – better luck next year.”