Make people laugh, then make them think

Every year designated committees meet to determine the winners of the 5 Nobel prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology and Medicine, Literature, and Peace. Honoring the will of Alfred Nobel, these prizes have been awarded yearly since 1901 to “those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” Previous winners include some of the most renowned scientists of the past century, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie (who won both a physics and chemistry prize), Alexander Fleming, James Watson and Francis Crick (with plenty of controversy over the omission of Rosalind Franklin), and Martin Luther King, Jr. Recent winners include Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their work on CRISPR and David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, the 2021 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

While the Nobel Prize is often regarded as the highest honor that a scientist can be awarded, they are certainly not the only game in town. Every September, for the past 31 years, scientists descend on Harvard University to celebrate the winners of the “Ig Nobel Prize”. These awards are handed out (by Nobel Prize winners) as a celebration of unusual, imaginative, and downright bizarre scientific research. In the words of the Ig Nobel prize committee, the prizes are for “Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK”.

Although many of the Ig Nobel winners are for bizarre or humorous research projects, the committee insists that they are not ridiculing science or trying to insult the winners in any way. Instead, they are trying to honor the scientific achievements that are odd, funny, and absurd, but still represent great science. You can learn more about the nomination, selection, and award process at their website.

“The Stinker”, official mascot of the Ig Nobel Prizes. ©2021 Improbable Research

Each winner is presented their prize and then given a short amount of time to explain their research. The 2021 winners included research into the potential for facial hair (like a thick beard) to protect against punches to the face, Modes of Cat-Human Communication, and a New Method of Cockroach Control on Submarines. You can read about all ten 2021 winners here.

So why are the Ig Nobel prizes important? Other then celebrating good research that often goes unrecognized, the prizes highlight some of the factors that make science so important. Asking questions, making hypotheses, and following them through to their conclusion, regardless of how silly that research might become. Importantly, the award ceremony is also often a masterclass in science communication. Each award winner is given only 60 seconds to explain their research and why it is important. In addition, the “24/7 Lectures” are a competition to explain your topic in 24 seconds or 7 words. This is exceptionally difficult – imagine spending YEARS working on a project and then being asked to summarize your entire work in only a few seconds and then in 7 words! This can be a great project for your students; watch some of the 24/7 lectures and then ask them to summarize their lab reports or a research project using the same rules!

We hope that you can find some joy from the Ig Nobel Prizes and believe that they might inspire some curiosity into your own unusual research project!

Show Us Your Spooky Science Pumpkins! 

•  Do you have superior pumpkin carving skills that you’re just itching to show off?
•  Does your October revolve around finding the perfect outdoor Halloween decorations?
•  Has your costume been planned since April?
Then our pumpkin carving contest is for you!

Tag @edvotek with #edvotekhalloween on social media (Twitter or Instagram) and flaunt your science-themed pumpkin artistry! Our favorite design will win the carver a $100 EDVOTEK gift card!

To kickstart your creative juices, we’ve put together several carving templates, but feel free to design your own!

TEMPLATES are Here –>

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