Genius or Goofball? The 2011 Ig Nobel Award Winners
The 2011 Ig Nobel Awards honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.

Ig Nobel 2011

"The awards are for science that makes people laugh, then think," Gareth Jones, professor of biology at the University of Bristol and 2010 winner, told

Medicine Prize 2011: Urinate

Medicine Prize -- Demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things -- but worse decisions about other kinds of things, when they have a strong urge to urinate.

Winners: Mirjam Tuk (of The Netherlands and the UK), Debra Trampe (of The Netherlands) and Luk Warlop (of Belgium). and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of Australia)

Pictured: Manneken Pis, bronze sculpture in Brussels, Belgium

(Donar Reiskoffer)

Psychology Prize 2011: Sigh

Psychology Prize -- Trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Winner: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway


video games

Literature Prize -- Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important

Winner: John Perry of Stanford University, USA

Public Safety Prize 2011: Cellphone Driving

Public Safety Prize -- Conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

Winner: John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada

(Ed Poor)

Chemistry Prize 2011: Wasabi

Chemistry Prize -- Determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

Winners: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of Japan

Pictured: A drawing of a wasabi plant, published in 1828 by Iwasaki Kanen

(Iwasaki Kanen)

Mathematics Prize 2011: End of World

Mathematics Prize -- Teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Winners: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (1990), Lee Jang Rim of Korea (1992), Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (September 6, 1994 and later predicted October 21, 2011).

Pictured: 2012 movie poster

(Columbia Pictures)

Physics Prize 2011: Discus Thrower

Physics Prize -- Trying to determine why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.

Winners: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of France), and Herman Kingma (of The Netherlands)

Pictured: Modern copy of the Diskophoros, attributed to Alkamenes

(Rolf Broberg)

Biology Prize 2011: Beetle

Biology Prize -- Discovering that certain kinds of beetles mate with certain kinds of Australian beer bottles.

Winners: Daryll Gwynne (of Canada and Australia and the USA) and David Rentz (of Australia and the USA)

Pictured: A beetle, just before takeoff. The elytra and unfolding wings can clearly be seen.

Physiology Prize 2011: Yawn

Physiology Prize -- Study: No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise

Winners: Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of The Netherlands and Hungary), Isabella Mandl (of Austria) and Ludwig Huber (of Austria)

(J. Paul Getty Museum)

Peace Prize 2011: Tank

Peace Prize -- Demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

Winner: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania

(U.S. Army/Cpl. Alexis Harrison)

Ig Nobel 2010

The 19th annual event in 2010 centered on the theme of “bacteria,” and was produced by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

Management Prize 2010: Office Space

Management Prize -- Demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

Winners: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy

(20th Century Fox)

Peace Prize 2010: Swearing

Peace Prize -- Confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.

Winners: Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK


Physics Prize 2010: Socks

Physics Prize -- Demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall elss often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.

Winners: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand


Transportation Planning Prize 2010: Slime Mold

Transportation Planning Prize -- Using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.

Winners: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK

(Dr. Jonathan Gott/Center for RNA Molecular Biology, Case Western Reserve University)

Medicine Prize 2010: Rollercoaster

Medicine Prize -- Discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.

Winners: Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, The Netherlands


Chemistry Prize 2010: Oil Spill

Chemistry Prize -- Disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix.

Winners: Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum],


Biology Prize 2010: Fruitbat

Biology Prize -- Scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.

Winners: Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK

(Adrian Pingstone)

Economis Prize 2010: Finance

Economics Prize -- Creating and promoting new ways to invest money -- ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.

Winners: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar

(Banco Carregosa)

Engineering Prize 2010: Whale Snot

Engineering Prize -- Perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.

Winners: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico

(Whit Welles)

Public Health Prize 2010: Galileo

Public Health Prize -- Determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.

Winners: Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA

Pictured: A bearded Galileo

Genius or Goofball? The 2011 Ig Nobel Award Winners

The 2011 Ig Nobel Awards honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.

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