25 years old
Each year since 1991, Improbable Research has highlighted a handful of real researchers whose work might seem goofy on the surface, but often has serious implications. The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded annually at a ceremony at Harvard University shortly before the Nobel prizes are announced.
Here’s a look at a winner from each of the past 24 years, with the 2015 prize winners being announced tonight. (Update: The 2015 prize winners include a scientist who let bees sting him on 25 different body parts and a trio of researchers from the Max Planck Inst. who determined that "huh" is universal in every language, Network World reports.)
1991: Peace prize -- Edward Teller
Father of the hydrogen bomb and first champion of the Star Wars weapons system, for his lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it.
1992: Chemistry – Ivette Bassa
Constructor of colorful colloids, for her role in the crowning achievement of 20th century chemistry, the synthesis of bright blue Jell-O.
1993: Consumer engineering – Ron Popeil
Incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television, for redefining the industrial revolution with such devices as the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler.
1994: Economics – Jan Pablo Davila
This tireless Chilean trader of financial futures and former employee of the state-owned Codelco Company, for instructing his computer to "buy" when he meant "sell," and subsequently attempting to recoup his losses by making increasingly unprofitable trades that ultimately lost .5 percent of Chile's gross national product. Davila's relentless achievement inspired his countrymen to coin a new verb: " davilar," meaning, "to botch things up royally."
1995: Psychology – Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto and Masumi Wakita
These Keio University researchers trained pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso and those of Monet.
1996: Art – Don Featherstone
For his ornamentally evolutionary invention, the plastic pink flamingo.
1997: Communications – Sanford Wallace
President of Cyber Promotions of Philadelphia -- neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night have stayed this self-appointed courier from delivering electronic junk mail to all the world.
1998: Chemistry – Jacques Benveniste
For this Frenchman’s homeopathic discovery that not only does water have memory, but that the information can be transmitted over telephone lines and the Internet.
1999: Environmental protection: Hyuk-ho Kwon
With Kolon Company of Seoul, Korea, for inventing the self-perfuming business suit.
2000: Computer science -- Chris Niswander
For inventing PawSense, software that detects when a cat is walking across your computer keyboard.
2001: Astrophysics: Dr. Jack and Rexella Van Impe
For their discovery that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell.
2002: Chemistry – Theodore Gray
For gathering many elements of the periodic table, and assembling them into the form of a four-legged periodic table table.
2003: Medicine – University College of London researchers
For presenting evidence that the brains of London taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of their fellow citizens.
2004: Engineering – Donald J. Smith, and his father, Frank J. Smith
For patenting the combover (U.S. Patent #4,022,227).
2005: Literature – Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria
For creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters -- General Sani Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others -- each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.
2006: Peace – Howard Stapleton
For inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant – a device that makes annoying high-pitched noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but probably not to their teachers.
2007: Economics -- Kuo Cheng Hsieh
For patenting a device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them.
2008: Physics – Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego.
For proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
2009: Physics -- Katherine Whitcome (University of Cincinnati), Daniel Lieberman (Harvard), Liza Shapiro (University of Texas)
For analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
2010: Peace – Keele University researchers
For confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
2011: Mathematics – Assorted prognosticators
Dorothy Martin (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping (who predicted the world would end on Sept. 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on Oct. 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.
2012: Literature – 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.
2013: Safety Engineering – Gustano Pizzo
For inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to Earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival.
2014: Physics -- Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai
For measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor.
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