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.
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.
The Scientists Who Researched Constipation in Military Personnel
In 1994, scientists W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Kraft-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen won the award in Biology for their research into the, ahem, bathroom habits of military personnel. After surveying personnel aboard the USS Iwo Jima LPH 2 during Operation Desert Shield with a “bowel function questionnaire,” they published their results in the journal Mil Med.
Their paper, “The constipated serviceman: prevalence among deployed U.S. troops,” confirmed that “whether constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements or presence of symptoms of constipation, significantly more servicemen will be constipated in the field as compared to their home environment.”
Because of this increased risk of in-country constipation, the scientists recommended that “preventative measures ought to be evaluated.” Gentlemen, we salute you.
The Scientists Who Documented an STI Passed Through an Inflatable Doll
For their pioneering work documenting the first-known case of gonorrhea passed through an inflatable doll, Ellen Kleist of Greenland and Harald Moi of Norway won the 1996 Ig Nobel in Public Health. Their 1993 article, “Transmission of gonorrhoea through an inflatable doll,” tells the harrowing tale of a lonely sailor, his night of passion with an inflatable doll, and its groundbreaking aftermath. Although he told it “with some hesitation,” this sailor’s story enhanced sexual health knowledge and practices, extending them into (plastic) regions heretofore unknown.
The Royal Navy That Said "Boom" Instead of Using Ammunition
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.