The 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony took place on September 17, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. in the Sanders Theater at Harvard University. This year’s ceremony introduced 10 new Ig Nobel Prize winners — each has done something that makes people laugh, then think. Winners traveled to the ceremony, at their own expense, from around the world to receive their prize from a group of “genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates,” in Harvard’s historic and largest theater.
2015 Ig Nobel Prize Recipients
- Chemistry Prize: for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.
Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA].
- Reference: “Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies,” Tom Z. Yuan, Callum F. G. Ormonde, Stephan T. Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin M. Pugliese, Tivoli J. Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Colin L. Raston, Gregory A. Weiss, ChemBioChem, epub January 2015.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Callum Ormonde, Tivoli Olsen, Colin Raston, Greg Weis
- Physics Prize: for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).
Patricia Yang [USA and TAIWAN], David Hu [USA and TAIWAN], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA].
- Reference: “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Patricia J. Yang, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, and David L. Hu, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014: 201402289.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Patricia Yang, David Hu, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo
- Literature Prize: for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why.
Mark Dingemanse [THE NETHERLANDS, USA], Francisco Torreira [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, USA], and Nick J. Enfield [AUSTRALIA, THE NETHERLANDS],
- Reference: “Is ‘Huh?’ a universal word? Conversational infrastructure and the convergent evolution of linguistic items,” Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, and Nick J. Enfield, PLOS ONE, 2013.
Who Attended the Ceremony: The authors were unable to attend the ceremony; they sent a video acceptance speech. They will receive their prize at a special event in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on October 3: The European Ig Nobel Show
- Management Prize: for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences.
Gennaro Bernile [ITALY, SINGAPORE, USA], Vineet Bhagwat [USA], and P. Raghavendra Rau [UK, INDIA, FRANCE, LUXEMBOURG, GERMANY, JAPAN].
- Reference: “What Doesn’t Kill You Will Only Make You More Risk-Loving: Early-Life Disasters and CEO Behavior,” Gennaro Bernile, Vineet Bhagwat, and P. Raghavendra Rau, Asian Finance Association (AsianFA) 2015 Conference Paper. Accepted for publication in the Journal of Finance. Available at SSRN 2423044.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Gennaro Bernile and P. Raghavendra Rau
- Economics Prize: for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Police [THAILAND].
- Reference: Numerous news reports.
- Medicine Prize: for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).
Awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [JAPAN, CHINA]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [SLOVAKIA, US, UK], Peter Celec [SLOVAKIA, GERMANY], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [SLOVAKIA].
- Reference: “Kissing Reduces Allergic Skin Wheal Responses and Plasma Neurotrophin Levels,” Hajime Kimata, Physiology and Behavior, vol. 80, nos. 2-3, November 2003, pp. 395-8.
- Reference: “Reduction of Allergic Skin Weal Responses by Sexual Intercourse in Allergic Patients,” Hajime Kimata, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, vol 19, no. 2, May 2004, pp. 151-4.
- Reference: “Kissing Selectively Decreases Allergen-Specific IgE Production in Atopic Patients,” Hajime Kimata, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 60, 2006, pp. 545– 547.
- Reference: “Prevalence and Persistence of Male DNA Identified in Mixed Saliva Samples After Intense Kissing,” Natália Kamodyová, Jaroslava Durdiaková, Peter Celec, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik, Forensic Science International Genetics, vol. 7, no. 1, January 2013, pp. 124–8.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Jaroslava Durdiaková and Peter Celec. Hajime Kimata will be at the Ig Informal Lectures, on Saturday, September 19 (a prior commmitment prevented him from attending the Thursday ceremony); he sent a video acceptence speech which was played at the Thursday night ceremony.
- Mathematics Prize: for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.
Elisabeth Oberzaucher [AUSTRIA, GERMANY, UK] and Karl Grammer [AUSTRIA, GERMANY].
- Reference: “The Case of Moulay Ismael-Fact or Fancy?” Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer, PLOS ONE, vol. 9, no. 2, 2014, e85292.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Elisabeth Oberzaucher
- Biology Prize: for observing that, when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.
Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [CHILE], José Iriarte-Díaz [CHILE, USA].
- Reference: “Walking Like Dinosaurs: Chickens with Artificial Tails Provide Clues about Non-Avian Theropod Locomotion,” Bruno Grossi, José Iriarte-Díaz, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez, PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 2, 2014, e88458. [NOTE: The paper is accompanied by a video.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Bruno Grossi, José Iriarte-Díaz, Omar Larach, Rodrigo A. Vásquez
- Diagnostic Medicine Prize: for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.
Diallah Karim [CANADA, UK], Anthony Harnden [NEW ZEALAND, UK, US], Nigel D’Souza [BAHRAIN, BELGIUM, DUBAI, INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, US, UK], Andrew Huang [CHINA, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK].
- Reference: “Pain Over Speed Bumps in Diagnosis of Acute Appendicitis: Diagnostic Accuracy Study,” Helen F. Ashdown, Nigel D’Souza, Diallah Karim, Richard J. Stevens, Andrew Huang, and Anthony Harnden, BMJ, vol. 345, 2012, e8012.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Diallah Karim, Anthony Harnden, Helen Ashdown, Nigel D’Souza, Abdel Kader Allouni
- Physiology and Entomology Prize: for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).
Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt [USA, CANADA], for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith [USA, UK, THE NETHERLANDS]
- Reference: “Hemolytic Activities of Stinging Insect Venoms,” Justin O. Schmidt, Murray S. Blum, and William L. Overal, Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology, vol. 1, no. 2, 1983, pp. 155-160.
- Reference: “Honey Bee Sting Pain Index by Body Location,” Michael L. Smith, PeerJ, 2014, 2:e338.
Who Attended the Ceremony: Justin Schmidt and Michael Smith
According to Improbable Research, the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony included many improbable things:
- The 10 new 2015 Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced and introduced
- Winners physically received their prizes, and a handshake, from genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel laureates:
- The theme of this year’s ceremony (though not necessarily of the achievements that win prizes) was LIFE.
- Pre-Pre-Ceremony Concert, in the transept (lobby): The Boston Squeezebox Ensemble (BSE): Thomas Michel, Colin Ferguson, Patrick Yacono, Betty Widersky, David Brancazio, Rebecca Cooper, Jooyeon June, Koo Sari Kalin
- Pre-ceremony concert, on stage: Ig Nobel Majordomo Gary Dryfoos sang songs from past Ig Nobel Operas
- Two Moments of Science, by performing chemists Daniel Rosenberg, Isabelle Rosenberg, and Joost Bonsen
- The 24/7 LECTURES, in which several of the world’s top thinkers each explains her or his subject twice:
FIRST: a complete technical description in 24 seconds
AND THEN: a clear summary that anyone can understand, in seven words
This year’s 24/7 Lecturers and their topics:
- Premier of the mini-opera “The Best Life,” about a competition to choose the best species of life.
- music by Giuseppe Verdi and Arthur Sullivan, story and words by Marc Abrahams
- directed by Maria Ferrante, assisted by Robin Abrahams, costumed by Catherine Quick Spingler
- starring Maria Ferrante, Scott Taylor, Daniel Rosenberg
- with The All-Species Chorus — Delphine Gabbay (chorus wrangler), Erika Hutchinson, Sylvia Rosenberg, Julia Lunetta, Vicki Bloom, Ros (Rosalind) Reid, Natasha Rosenberg, Abby Schiff, Vijaya Sundaram, Rob Hart, Liz Oppenheim, Warren Senders, Ted Sharpe, Nick Carstoiu, et al. The chorus ranks were swelled, in Act 3 of the opera, by the Nobel laureates.
- backed by the Concentrated Forces of Nature, a distilled orchestra composed entirely of Harvard Medical School researchers Patrick Yacono and Thomas Michel
- Ceremonial bows from several returning past Ig Nobel Prize winners — including the Final Appearance of 2005 Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize winner Dr. Nakamats, possibly the world’s greatest human being, who performed the American debut of his swan song. (If somehow you are not familiar with Dr. Nakamats, perhaps you will enjoy this introduction.)
- Ceremonial music by Nicholas Carstoiu and The Ig Leaves
- Karen Hopkin, creator of the Studmuffins of Science Calendar
- The Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest
- Salutes to the Audience Delegations
- The Minordomos (Chris Deter, Eliza Kosoy, Julia Lunetta, Peaco Todd, Sylvia Rosenberg, Natasha Rosenberg, Pooja Usgaonkar) made most things on stage run smoothly
- Two grand Paper Airplane Deluges
- Speeches were kept brief, thanks to eight-year-old Ms. Sweetie-Poo
- Special appearance by Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club (LFHCfS) Woman-of-the-Year Anne Madden
- Traditional “Welcome, Welcome” Speech
- Traditional “Goodbye, Goodbye” Speech
- Other wondrous things
The Ig Informal Lectures
A half-afternoon of “improbably funny, informative, informal, brief public lectures and demonstrations” is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 19, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. at MIT, building 10, room 250. At this time, the new Ig Nobel Prize winners will attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it.
Special appearances will be made by several past Ig Nobel Prize winners — including a special performance by Dr. Nakamats — and Ig Nobel Prize winners will be available for attendees to talk with, both before and after the lectures.
The Ig informal Lectures are a free event, organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore. (Seating is limited, so the organizers suggest arriving a bit early.)