Science

A Nobel Alternative

Life is full of alternatives – alternative medicine, alternative energy, even an alternative Queen’s Christmas Message. And when it comes to the prestigious Nobel Prizes, it’s hardly surprising that there is one for that too: the Ig Nobel prizes.

Since their launch in 1991, the ‘lgs’ have become a light-hearted highlight of the scientific calendar. Each year, ten Ig Nobel prizes are awarded, just a few days before the real thing for “achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced.”

So what improbable research achievements have been awarded an Ig? The list is certainly impressive. In 2009 the Public Health prize went to Elena N. Bodnar for the invention of a bra that can be converted into a pair of facemasks during an emergency. In 1997, the Peace prize was awarded to Harold Hillman for his report on ‘The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods,’ whilst 1998 saw Jerald Bain and Kerry Siminoski win the Statistics prize for their publication ‘The Relationship among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size.’

The Ig Nobel prizes may not be awarded for Earth-shattering scientific research, and they probably won’t guarantee their recipients funding. But at least they are a welcome comedic diversion from serious science.

Austin Booth

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