Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Celebrating serious fun!

- Bikramjit Chandra (M.Sc. Physics, II Year)

Since 1991, the Ig Nobel Awards, organised by the Annals Of Improbable Research, has celebrated serious scholastic achievements on humourous subjects and discoveries “that cannot, or should not, be reproduced”. Held annually by Harvard University, the awards are given for ten different fields presented by a group of genuine Nobel Laureates to their highly bemused winners. The winning discoveries and achievements vary widely from investigations into the validity of the five-second rule (Public Health 2004) to sworn attestations of the non-addictive nature of tobacco (Medicine 1997) to the adoption of the legal principle that plants have dignity (Peace 2008). Though most of the awards are for humourous or astonishing articles and works, they are also a form of subtle criticism as seen from the awards in Science Education given to the Kansas and the Colorado state boards of education for removing Darwin's theory of evolution from the curriculum.

Some of the most interesting Ig Nobel Awards were awarded to:

Chemistry 2007: Mayu Yamamoto for developing a way to extract vanilla fragrance and flavoring from cow dung.

Physics 2005: John Mainstone and the late Thomas Parnell for patiently conducting an experiment that began in the year 1927 to prove that black tar was a liquid by observing that it had been dripping through a funnel.....at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years.

Economics 2004: The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India.

Engineering 2003: The late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will".

Peace 2003: Lal Bihari for a triple accomplishment: First, for being alive even though he was been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively campaign against the bureaucracy and greedy relatives to be declared alive; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People.

Astrophysics 2001: Dr. Jack and Rexella Van Impe of Jack Van Impe Ministries for their discovery that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell.

Technology 2001: Awarded jointly to John Keogh for patenting the wheel in the year 2001, and to the Australian Patent Office for granting him Innovation Patent #2001100012.

Literature 1999: The British Standards Institution for its six-page specification of the proper way to make a cup of tea.

Peace 1998: Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, for their peaceful atomic bomb tests.

Peace 1997: Harold Hillman for his illuminating and highly useful report: "The Possible Pain Experienced During Execution by Different Methods."

Mathematics 1994: The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to Hell if they don't repent.

To know more about the Ig Nobel Awards, click here. (Editors)

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