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IG NOBEL Prizes for 2013 have been announced. These annual honors are organized by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. See for the website and portal to the organizers’ many activities.


“The Stinker,” official mascot of the Ig Nobel Prizes.

The first Iggies were bestowed in 1991. Among those honored that year was J. Danforth Quayle (remember him?). Quayle’s award in Education carried the citation “consumer of time and occupier of space, for demonstrating, better than anyone else, the need for science education.”


The Ig Nobel Prizes are recognized worldwide:

This year’s winners:

Medicine. Masateru Uchiyama et al, for assessing the effect of listening to opera on heart transplant patients who are mice. See for the research paper. Opera listeners survived 20 days longer than non-opera listeners.

Psychology. Laurent Bègue et al, for confirming by experiment that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. See

Biology, Astronomy, jointly. Marie Dacke et al, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way. See (as also cited by Sheldon Cooper).

Safety Engineering. The late Gustano Pizzo, for inventing an electromechanical system to trap airplane hijackers. The system drops a hijacker through a trap door, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulation through a specially-installed bomb bay. He is parachuted to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await him. See U.S. Patent

Physics. Alberto Minetti et al, for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across a pond—provided the pond and person were on the moon. See


The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize’s hammer is encased in glass.

Chemistry. Shinsuke Imai et al, for discovering that the biochemistry of onions making people cry is more complicated than scientists previously realized. See Science is never over.

Archaeology. Brian Crandall et al, for parboiling dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then…. No. I can’t go on. See, if you must.

Peace. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, and to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding. Unlike the other 2013 Ig Nobel honorees, Lukashenko did not acknowledge the prize.

Probability. Bert Tolkamp et el, for two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and, second, that once the cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again. See


When will she get up? It depends. Image by Tom Whipple in The Times.

Public Health. Kasian Bhanganada et al, for surgical management of an epidemic of penile amputations in Thailand; in particular, for techniques recommended except when the amputated member has been partially eaten by a duck. See; then again, you might not want to go there. The paper, or Thailand.

There’s an edifying book on other Iggie-worthy matters.


This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research, by Marc Abrahams, Oneworld Publications, 2012. It is listed at and

Marc Abrahams is editor and co-founder of Annals of Improbable Research as well as founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes; he also writes a weekly column for the British newspaper, the Guardian. Early in the book, he notes, “I collect stories about improbable things, things that make people laugh, then think.”

Let’s celebrate both of these activities. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

One comment on “HERE’S TO THE IGGIES!

  1. Richard Baron
    October 1, 2013

    How timely! I was just watching a cow the other day and wondering…

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