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Nobel Prize alternative celebrates the funny and unusual

October 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Every year the Ig Nobel prizes are awarded for achievements in science that first make people laugh, then think. Actual Nobel laureates are drafted to present awards to research into research on topics like the effects of opera on mouse heart-transplant patients and the phenomenon commonly known as “beer goggles.”
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HARI SREENIVASAN: And now, The Connection. We all love an awards ceremony, and in America, we tend to give awards out for anything.
 
In the film world, for instance, there’s the Razzies, “honoring” the worst performances and movies of the year.
 
HALLE BERRY: I want to thank the cast. You know, it’s really important, in order to give a really bad performance, like I did, you need a lot of bad actors around you.
 
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the fashion world, the late critic, Richard Blackwell, became famous for his annual “Worst Dressed List.”
 
And in the world of science, in anticipation of the first Nobel Prize announcements tomorrow, the Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded just last month at Harvard University, to celebrate—not the worst scientific achievements of the year—but the funniest.

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MARC ABRAHAMS: Every winner has done something that first makes people laugh, then makes them think.
 
HARI SREENIVASAN: This year’s Ig Nobel winners included scientists who studied things as far-reaching as the effects of opera on mouse heart-transplant patients…to the navigational talents of dung beetles…
 
IG NOBEL WINNER: Some people think science… is crap! 
 
HARI SREENIVASAN: … to the possibility of running on water… on the moon.
 
The Ig Nobel ceremony sometimes features Nobel Laureates demonstrating new inventions. Like this emergency bra created after the Chernobyl nuclear accident to protect against radiation.
 
The awards also feature “Miss Sweety-Poo”, an eight-year old girl hand-picked each year to combat overlong acceptance speeches in an unusual, but effective way.
 
MISS SWEETY-POO: Please stop! I’m bored! Please stop! I’m bored! Please stop! I’m bored!
 
HARI SREENIVASAN:  But more than anything else, the Ig Nobel ceremony provides a venue to show that even the most rigorous minds in science still like to have a good laugh.