Campus & Community

Oh, no! It’s Ig Nobel time again!

3 min read

On Oct. 3, men and women from four continents will take the stage at Sanders Theatre, where Nobel laureates will shake their hands; 1,200 strangers will pelt them with paper airplanes; and a worldwide Internet TV audience will watch them receive their Ig Nobel Prizes. Each of the 10 new Ig Nobel Prize winners has done something that first makes people laugh, then makes them think.

The Ig Nobel Ceremony is organized by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) in cooperation with three Harvard student groups – the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association (HRSFA), the Harvard Computer Society (HCS), and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students (SPS).

The Ig Nobel Prizes are a good-natured take-off on science and the Nobel Prizes. They celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur interest in science – both good and bad. Now in its 12th year, the Igs (as they are familiarly known) honor achievements that “cannot or should not be reproduced.” Each year, 10 new winners are invited to travel to Harvard – at their own expense – for a gala, pomp-and-paper-airplane-filled ceremony.

The winners’ identities and nationalities are kept secret until Oct. 3. This year’s gala evening ceremony will also include, in addition to the awarding of the Ig Nobel Prizes:

  • A special preceremony concert by the band The Dresden Dolls.
  • A new miniopera (“The Jargon Opera”) starring professional opera singers and the Nobel laureates.
  • The 24/7 SEMINARS, in which several of the world’s top thinkers explain their subjects twice.
  • The Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest.

    Last year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners included Viliumas Malinauskus of Lithuania, who founded the amusement park known as “Stalin World”; John Keogh of Australia, who patented the wheel in the year 2001; and Peter Barss of McGill University, author of the medical report “Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts.”

    The Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 3. The entire event will be Webcast live on the Internet and on WMBR-FM 88.1, and recorded for later broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” and “Science Friday” programs.

    The ceremony itself will be preceded by a brief concert by the Dresden Dolls, a Brechtian-punk-physics band led by Amanda Palmer.

    On Oct. 4, many of the new winners will try to explain themselves at the Ig Medical Lectures, in Snyder Auditorium at the School of Public Health beginning at 3 p.m. And on Oct. 5, all the winners will make public presentations at the Ig Informal Lectures, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, room 54-100, beginning at 1 p.m. Both the Oct. 4 and 5 lectures are free.

    For details, visit

    Tickets for the ceremony can be obtained from the Harvard Box Office at (617) 496-2222.