IgNobel 2008

This year’s IgNobel prizes have been awarded (last Thursday). Each year, they reward scientists for truly tought-provoking discoveries. For instance, last year J.M. Toro, J.B. Trobalon and N. Sebastian-Galles won a linguistics prize for demonstrating that rats cannot differentiate between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards. (You can download their report here.)

My personal all-time favourite, however, is the 2003 physics prize, which went to J. Harvey, J. Culvenor, W. Payne, S. Cowley, M. Lawrance, D. Stuart, and R. Williams, for their work in analysing what it takes to drag sheep over various surfaces. (Their highly technical report can be downloaded from here.)

This year’s winners include:

M. Zampini and C. Spence, who won a nutrition prize for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make it appear crisper and fresher than it really is.

T. Nakagaki, H. Yamada, R. Kobayashi, A. Tero, A. Ishiguro, and A. Toth, who won a cognitive science prize for "discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles".

G. Miller, J. Tybur and B. Jordan, who discovered, after extensive field work one would assume, "that a professional lap dancer’s ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings".

And the people of Switzerland, apparently, who won this year’s peace prize for "adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity". (I’ll keep that in mind the next time I eat vegetarian.)

Full list of this year’s IgNobel winners is here.