The 2020 Ig Nobel Awards

The 2020 Ig Nobel Awards were handed virtually by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research on September 17.

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Each winning team was given a cash prize — of a 10 trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe.

  • For Acoustics: Stephan Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and Tecumseh Fitch, for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air.
  • Psychology: Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule, for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows.
  • Peace: The governments of India and Pakistan, for having their diplomats surreptitiously ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.
  • Physics: Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky, for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency.
  • Economics: Christopher Watkins and colleagues for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries’ national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing.
  • Management: Xi Guang-An, Mo Tian-Xiang, Yang Kang-Sheng, Yang Guang-Sheng, and Ling Xian Si – five professional hitmen in Guangxi, China, who subcontracted a murder one to the other with none of them in the end actually carrying out the crime.
  • Entomology: Richard Vetter, for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders, which are not insects.
  • Medical Education: Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.
  • Materials Science: Metin Eren, Michelle Bebber, James Norris, Alyssa Perrone, Ashley Rutkoski, Michael Wilson, and Mary Ann Raghanti, for showing that knives manufactured from frozen human faeces do not work well.

7 thoughts on “The 2020 Ig Nobel Awards

  1. I think the entomology prize this year is my favorite.

    There’s no denying, though, that the peace prize also has its appeal. Or is that just the peal of loud doorbells?

  2. I was amused to see the BBC decided to lead with the alligator and not the honour bestowed on our prime minister. I wonder if there’s a petition yet to request he attend the awards ceremony?

  3. @Brown Robin:

    This was a slightly weird attempt to find out whether part of a story could have been true. In the story, someone makes a knife that way,and uses it to butcher an animal. [I understand that you don’t want any more detail than that.]

    I don’t know why they thought it was plausible enough to make the attempt, but I’ve done my share of not-actually-useful things this year, and they got an article out of theirs.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to compile this list. In a world with exploding human population, climate change, mass extinctions, and dwindling resources, it is lists like these that prevent widespread hysteria.

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