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Volkswagen | Pixabay
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The Ig Nobel Prizes: The Wackiest Awards Of 2016

Picture of Hannah Robathan
Updated: 28 September 2016
The Ig Nobel Prizes are the mischievous younger brother and spoof of the coveted Nobel Prize. Rather than being awarded for outstanding achievements and advancement in certain fields, the Ig Nobel Prizes are bestowed for scientific humour. With a slogan declaring the celebration of “research that makes you LAUGH and then THINK,” their official website explains that the prizes “are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative – and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.” The inspiration behind the awards is American science humor magazine, the Annals of Improbable Research.

Every September, thousands of spectators flock to Harvard University to watch the awards ceremony. Each winner is handed a $10tn Zimbabwean bill–which, in US dollars, amounts to about 40 cents–by actual Nobel laureates, while paper planes are flown in celebration by audience members (an obligatory tradition). Here’s a rundown of our top picks from this year’s winners.

Goat | Pexels
Goat | Pexels

Biology Prize

This was jointly awarded to two Britons. The first was Tom Thwaites, who applied prosthetic extensions to his limbs to allow him to walk on all fours like an animal. “I tried to take a holiday from being a human to be a goat,” he explained to the BBC, and found that he soon became “friends” with the animals with whom he roamed the Swiss Alps, bleating and eating grass for three days. The second winner was Charles Foster, who conducted similar research. He lived in the wild as an otter, a badger, an urban fox and a deer, during which time he adopted their eating habits – which included scavenging in trash bins while adopting his fox persona.

Chemistry Prize

This was satirically awarded to Volkswagen (in light of their recent emissions scandal) for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically [and] electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.” There has been no comment from the German company on their new accolade as of yet.

Peace Prize

A group of philosophical scientists from the US and Canada won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for their paper On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit. Their mission was to discover who was most susceptible to “bullshit,” and whether others could discern it at its most blatant.

Reproduction Prize

The late Egyptian urologist Ahmed Shafik was awarded with an Ig Nobel for his study on the effects that wearing trousers have on the sexual activity of male rats. He discovered that polyester diminished libido due to the electrostatic charges caused by the material. Wool and cotton trousers, however, had little effect. Shafik later conducted the same experiment on men.

Economics Prize

A trio from New Zealand and the UK examined the perceived “brand personalities” of different rocks to determine their dispositions from a sales and marketing perspective. Where Rock H was described by the students carrying out the tests as “modest” and “down-to-earth,” Rock G was “a big New York style businessman.”

The event is not to everyone’s taste: For those with a more refined palate, the real Nobel Prizes are announced between October 3rd and 10th.