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Nobel Prize Day: DeadHappy style

We give you the Nobel Prize’s mischievous evil twin, the Ig Nobel Prize. Celebrating unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. DeadHappy style.

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Dale Draycott

December 9, 2020

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On November 27th, 1895, a Mr. Alfred Nobel signed his last will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, France. Little did he know it would cause so much trouble!

After it was opened and read after his death, on the 10th December 1896, ripples went through Sweden and the whole world. Why, you ask?

Alfred’s dying wish

To put it in DeadHappy terms, it was his deathwish that caused the hoo-ha.

Controversially Alfred left much of his wealth for the invention of a prize…The Nobel Prize. His family opposed the creation of it and the prize awarders that he had named refused to do what he had requested in his will. 

After much ado and convincing by the executors, on the 5th anniversary of his death in 1901, the first Nobel Prize was finally awarded and shared.

Winners of the Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize Day is observed annually on December 10.

Some of the more household names that have won a Nobel Prize previously are Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Bob Dylan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. 

But in true DeadHappy style, I’m not gonna talk about all the incredible people that have won the Nobel Prize and their massively important contributions to physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. 

In fact, the original plan was to do exactly that, however whilst researching Nobel Prize winners, I came across something which grabbed my attention and I found myself down quite an entertaining rabbit hole…..

Please welcome to the Nobel Prize’s mischievous evil twin, the Ig Nobel Prize…

From its creation in 1991, the Ig Nobel Prize has annually awarded a satirical prize to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. It’s aim is to ‘honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.’ Ultimately to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, commemorate the weirdness and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

So I’ve researched the prize winners from every year since 1991, just for you, and have picked out some of the best (in no particular order). See what you think…


Defying gravity

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by three American researchers – Katherine K. Whitcome, Daniel E. Lieberman and Liza J. Shapiro – for their analytical explanation of ‘why pregnant women are not constantly tipping over.’


I gotta peeling.

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by four researchers – Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima, and Rina Sakai – for explaining the physics behind the issue that has plagued cartoon viewers for decades – slipping on a banana peel – why are they so damn slippery?.


I don’t believe it!

Professor Emeritus John documented ‘All the Things that Annoyed Him.’ He published the data on his annoyances in more than 80 detailed academic reports. Some of the highlights included, the percentage of young people wearing baseball caps “with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front” and the percentage “of shoppers who exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket’s checkout lane.” He received the 2003 prize in Literature, grumpy sod.


What a load of bollocks.

Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa were awarded the anatomy prize for testing the testicle temperatures in clothed and naked men. They found that in some postal workers, bus drivers, and other clothed men, the left knacker is warmer than the right, while in some naked men, the opposite is true. They suggest that this discrepancy may contribute to asymmetry in the shape and size of male gonads.


Why do wombats sh*t a perfect cube?

In the final 8 percent of a wombat’s intestine, poo transforms from a liquid-like state into a series of small, solid cubes. Lovely! 

Patricia Yang, David Hu, and their team inflated the intestines of two dead wombats with long balloons to discover that the shape is caused by the elasticity of the intestinal wall, which stretches at certain angles to form cubes. 

For solving the mystery, Yang and Hu took home the physics award for the second time—they also won in 2015 for testing the theory that all mammals can empty their bladders in about 21 seconds. Good to know!


Now let me hear ya say wayoh-way-oh!

In 2000, Ig Nobel awarded their Peace prize to the British Royal Navy.

In protest to budget cuts of their ammunition at their training camps, Royal Navy gunners began shouting ‘BOOM’ through microphones to imitate the firing of cannons during training exercises.

Although some in the British Parliament questioned the “quality” of this training, the Ministry of Defense insisted it gave the most “bang” for government bucks.



In 2002, Japanese scientists Keita Sato, Dr. Matsui Suzuki, and Dr. Norio Kogure won the Ig Nobel for Peace for their work in promoting interspecies communication.

They created a device called Bow-Lingual, a computer-based dog-to-human translator. It identifies dog barks as one of six different emotional categories and includes info on understanding the emotions of a dog’s body language. These two things combined helps an owner to how to best serve their pooch.

No more of that lost in interspecies translation nonsense! It was described as the best invention of 2002 by Times magazine and received many celeb backers such as Oprah Winfrey.


Walt Whitman’s dream

The 2016 Ig Nobel in Biology had two winners, UK scientists Charles Foster and Thomas Thwaites.

They both spent lengthy periods of time living as animals so they could get a better understanding of our fellow creatures’ lifestyles. Foster spent time as a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird, eating as each creature would eat and living as it would live. Thwaites oddly created prosthetic extensions for his limbs so he could roam the hills among goats.

Both men wrote books about their experiences and were awarded for their service to interspecies relations. Hope they just stuck to eating and ‘living’ aye!


Big socks?

In 1993, Jerald Bain of Mt. San Hospital in Toronto and Kerry Siminoski of the University of Alberta took on the classic innuendo: “You know what they say about big feet?”

Their 1993 paper, “The relationships among height, penile length, and foot size,” set out to “determine whether ‘folk myths’ regarding the relationships of penile size to body height and foot size have any basis in fact.”

However, in true myth-busting style, the two scientists found that there is absolutely no correlation between foot size and penis size. They won the 1998 Ig Nobel in Statistics for their hard work.


Birds and the bees.

Ostrich farmers around the world can thank UK biologists N. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, Phil Bower, and D. Charles Deeming for their work on ostrich courtship behavior (or not).

In simple terms, they found that ostrich’s loved a bit of voyeurism. And came to the conclusion that the big birds got a lot more frisky if a human was watching. But stated that the farmers would have to stay for the duration of the love making or they would lose interest and stop.

Their research was worthy of the 2002 Ig Nobel in Biology.


Dolled up

Ellen Kleist of Greenland and Harald Moi of Norway won the 1996 Ig Nobel in Public Health.

Their work documented the first-known case of gonorrhea passed through an inflatable doll. Their 1993 article told the curious tale of a lonely sailor getting an STI at sea. The doctors were dumbfounded as there was no women on the boat, the sailor denied a homosexual encounter and they had left the port over two weeks before symptoms began, which ruled out that.

The sailor hesitantly solved the mystery by revealing a romantic liaison with a blow up doll. Spoiler alert, the blow up doll wasn’t monogamous. Ewww!


Mama o-o-o-ooooo

It is normal practice for pregnant women to play music towards their bellies for their developing fetus with hopes their new child will be born with an appreciation for their musical taste.

The Obstetrics Ig Nobel was awarded to Spanish researchers who used ultrasound to track fetal facial expressions in response to music. 

And here’s where it gets interesting/weirder: 

The music was played on speakers placed on the stomach, or wired in a tampon-like device and inserted the woman’s vagina. 

They discovered that babies seemed to prefer the intra-vaginal music device, as the researchers detected more fetal mouth movement. It wasn’t mentioned which method the moms-to-be preferred. However, the research has led to a patented Fetal Acoustic Stimulation Device: otherwise known as the Babypod. Crikey!


Ding dong dash!

The governments of India and Pakistan bagged the Ig Nobel Peace prize in 2020 for having their diplomats ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.

Who’d have thought knock-a-door run (or whatever you called it when you were younger) would turn political.


You do it, no you do it, no you!

The Ig Nobel Management prize in 2020 went to five Chinese professional hitmen who managed a contract for a hit job (a murder performed for money) in the following way:

After accepting payment to perform the murder, Xi Guang-An then instead subcontracted the task to Mo Tian-Xiang, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Kang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Yang Guang-Sheng, who then instead subcontracted the task to Ling Xian-Si, with each subsequently enlisted hitman receiving a smaller percentage of the fee, and nobody actually performing a murder. ‘Professional!’


Fuzzy duck

In 1995, Kees Moeliker heard a loud bang coming from the Natural History Museum Rotterdam’s new wing. Turns out it was a bird hitting the glass exterior. As curator of the museum, Kees was used to this as it happened regularly. However this day was different, this bird’s final flight changed his life. Let me explain why.

Soon after the male duck died, a live male duck from the same species approached it, mounted it and well, ‘ducked’ it for over an hour.

Moeliker did what any normal person would do at this point – he grabbed his camera and his notebook and recorded exactly what happened. His bizarre observations turned into a paper aptly titled ‘The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos.’ In 2003, this work was rewarded with the Ig Nobel Prize in Biology.

What a quacking one to end on…

Now to the prize…

Each recipient of the Ig Nobel prizes each receive a pointless cash prize, a now obsolete $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note and are handed out by actual Nobel Prize (the real one) winners at Harvard University. 

In most cases winners will go to the ceremony to collect their prize in person (they have to pay for their own travel there) and as with traditional award ceremonies, they are invited to give a speech. During that speech, Miss Sweetie Poo, a little girl, repeatedly cries out, “Please stop: I’m bored”, in a high-pitched voice if speakers go on too long. 

The audience are encouraged to throw paper airplanes onto the stage during the ceremony and thousands tune into the weirdness online every year.

The awards ceremony is traditionally closed with the words: “If you didn’t win a prize – and especially if you did – better luck next year!”

Sounds like a riot, think I might tune in next year…