The Wackiest Scientists to Ever Win the Ig Nobel Prize for Their Research

List Rules
Vote up the most hilarious contributions to "science."

Each year, the Ig Nobel (ignoble, get it?) Prizes are given out to the funniest, most outlandish research produced from around the globe. Hosted by the Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Nobels have been held at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University since 1991. The awards have been given out to "researchers" who proclaimed that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements of Hell, "biologists" who donned stilts and lived among goats, and "scientists" who have endeavored to discover everything from the existence of the five-second rule to the friction of a banana peel. This list documents the weirdest Ig award winners from the past two decades. Some semi-serious, some seriously satirical, this list of funny Ig Nobel winners is unlikely to disappoint.  


  • 1
    32 VOTES

    The 'Mathematicians' Who Incorrectly Predicted The Apocalypse

    The 2011 Ig Nobel in Mathematics had six independent recipients. It was awarded to individuals who taught “the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.”

    The recipients? Dorothy Martin of the USA; Pat Robertson of the USA; Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA; Lee Jang Rim of Korea; Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda; and Harold Camping of the USA.

    What did they have in common? Each predicted a specific date for the world’s end, and it turned out their predicted apocalypses... weren’t so accurate. Because of this, Ig Nobel applauded their (dis)service to the world of mathematical predictions.

    32 votes
  • 2
    59 VOTES

    The Physicists Who Measured The Friction Between A Shoe And A Banana Peel

    In 2012, a team of Japanese physicists took on a question that has plagued cartoon-viewers for decades: can you actually slip and fall on a banana peel?

    To answer this question, the physicists measured the friction created between a human shoe, a banana peel, and linoleum. They found that, in fact, a banana peel produces less friction between the shoe and the floor than another similar object would. In other words, the banana peel kind of creates a slipping hazard! They blame the peel’s “follicular gel” for the added lubrication that reduces friction. This research won the 2014 Ig Nobel in Physics.

    59 votes
  • 3
    73 VOTES

    The Royal Navy That Said 'Boom' Instead Of Using Ammunition

    The Royal Navy That Said 'Boom' Instead Of Using Ammunition
    Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0

    In 2000, Ig Nobel awarded their Peace prize to a rather unlikely candidate: the British Royal Navy. They won the prestigious award after budget cuts reduced the amount of live ammunition rounds supplied to different training sites. As a way to save their live rounds, Royal Navy gunners began shouting “bang” through microphones to indicate the firing of canons during training exercises. Although some in the British Parliament questioned the “quality” of this training, the Ministry of Defense insisted it gave the most “bang” for government bucks.

    73 votes
  • 4
    39 VOTES

    The British Biologists Who Studied Ostrich Courtship Around Humans

    Ostrich farmers around the globe owe a debt of gratitude to biologists N. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, Phil Bower, and D. Charles Deeming of the United Kingdom for their work on ostrich courtship behavior. Using the presence of humans to gauge the likelihood of ostriches’ sexual arousal, the biologists found that both male and female ostriches were more likely to demonstrate courtship behavior in the presence of humans. However, they also found that brief exposure to humans “did not stimulate courtship behavior in the period immediately after the human had withdrawn.” So, basically, if farmers want to get their birds in “the mood,” they’re going to have to stick around for a while. This is a finding worthy of the 2002 Ig Nobel in Biology.

    39 votes
  • 5
    54 VOTES

    The Doctor Who Took On The Question Of Knuckle-Cracking And Arthritis

    “Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis of the fingers?” This is the question that Dr. Donald L. Unger of Thousand Oaks, California, spent 50 years trying to answer. And it won him the 2009 Ig Nobel in Medicine. To conduct his research, Dr. Unger cracked only the knuckles on his left hand at least twice a day, never cracking those on his right hand. “Thus, the knuckles on the left were cracked at least 36,500 times, while those on the right cracked rarely and spontaneously."

    After 50 years of cracking, Dr. Unger found that “there was no arthritis in either hand, and no apparent differences between the hands.”

    Talk about dedicating your life to science!

    54 votes
  • 6
    52 VOTES

    The Statisticians Who Studied The Link Between Height, Shoe Size, And Penile Length

    Let’s all applaud Jerald Bain of Mt. San Hospital in Toronto and Kerry Siminoski of the University of Alberta for taking on the age-old innuendo: “Look at how big his feet are! You know what that means, right?”

    Their 1993 paper, “The relationships among height, penile length, and foot size,” set out to “determine whether ‘folk myths’ regarding the relationships of penile size to body height and foot size have any basis in fact.”

    However, in true myth-busting style, the two scientists found that, in fact, “height and foot size would not serve as practice estimators of penis length” after studying 63 male specimens. They won the 1998 Ig Nobel in Statistics for their hard work.

    52 votes