On Thursday, the 2012 Ig Nobel prizes were awarded to their recipients at a ceremony at Harvard University. The prizes are a parody of the Nobel prizes, and are given for unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The awards are sometimes a thinly veiled criticism of frivolous experiments or dubious accomplishments. The prizes are awarded by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research, and there are ten winners every year. This year’s winners are:
Acoustics: Kazutaka Kurihara [Japan] and Koji Tsukada [Japan], for creating the SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person’s speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.
Anatomy: Frans de Waal [Netherlands/USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA], for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
Chemistry: Johan Pettersson [Sweden/Rwanda], for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people’s hair turned green.
Fluid Dynamics: Rouslan Krechetnikov [USA/Russia/Canada] and Hans Mayer [USA], for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.
Literature: The U.S. 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.
Medicine: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan [France] and Michel Antonietti [France], for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
Neuroscience: Craig Bennett [USA], Abigail Baird [USA], Michael Miller [USA], and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere, even in a dead salmon.
Peace: The SKN Company [Russia], for converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.
Physics: Joseph Keller [USA], Raymond Goldstein [USA/UK], Patrick Warren [UK], and Robin Ball [UK], for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.
Psychology: Anita Eerland [Netherlands], Rolf Zwaan [Netherlands], and Tulio Guadalupe [Peru/Russia/Netherlands], for their study “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller”.
A special announcement was also made regarding the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics. A share of the prize was retroactively awarded to Joseph Keller, for his part in calculating how to make a teapot spout that does not drip. This makes Keller a two-time Ig Nobel alumni, as he also won the 2012 Ig Nobel prize in Physics.