Ig Nobel Prizes (as in "ignoble") are awarded annually to those who have made strange scientific achievements. Ten prizes are given to people who have done remarkably goofy things -- some of them admirable, some perhaps otherwise.

The prizes are presented at a gala ceremony in Harvard University's Sanders Theatre, and are sponsored by the scientific humour journal Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). The first IgNobels were awarded in 1991. Explains the journal's editor Marc Abrahams, "Most scientists don't get much attention for their work. For the winners it's an opportunity for people to pay attention to them and ask them what they do." Officially the prizes are granted for 'performances that cannot or should not be repeated'. The former are usually some kind of criticism to the 'winners', the latter are usually scientific articles that have some funny or non-serious aspect on them.

Most winners--especially those who are being "honored" for things they should not have done--are embarrassed by the prizes, but the occasional winner for an obscure or amusing, but genuine, scientific result cheerfully accepts and even attends the award ceremony.

The ceremony is co-sponsored by the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students. Though they are a parody of the Nobel Prizes, genuine Nobel Laureates are on hand to award the winners with their honours.

Examples of the research include the discovery that the presence of humans tends to sexually arouse ostriches and the application of imaginary numbers to accounting practices.

A book is available with writeups on some of the winners, ISBN 0-75285-150-0 (hardback), ISBN 0-75284-261-7 (paperback).

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