Friday, November 05, 2010

Silly Nobel Leads to Real Nobel!

Every year in the U.S. anti-Nobel prizes are awarded for meaningless scientific discoveries that make us laugh. However, it appears that the discovery of false Nobel winner can finally lead to the "original" Nobel Prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize, announced that this year's winners in physics are Russians Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for "revolutionary experiments with two-dimensional material, graphene." Awareness of the importance of their achievement lives in a small number of people who do have the idea what it is graphene, but this news has  intrigued connoisseurs of science, mainly because the scientist Andre Geim was until now known as laureate of another Nobel...  The one for the funniest inventions, which is awarded since 1991 in the United States, few days before the announcement of the winners in Stockholm, and which carries a variety of nicknames, from  anti - to silly Nobel. The Russian scientist, in 2000, received a parody of the most significant prize for science because he performed an experiment in which, with the help of magnetic fields, was able to raise a frog into a state of levitation.

The award is officially known as Ig Nobel, and it is given by satiric-scientific magazine “Annals of Improbable Research”. The prize is awarded each year in Sanders Theatre at Harvard. When the "team" from the magazine, in 1991, awarded the first series of prizes, winners have been scientists whose findings were meaningless, but soon this choice grew into award for discoveries that first make people laugh, and then make them think. 

- Our goal is to make people laugh, but then to make them to think. We encourage curiosity in people, but we also raise a question, how do we decide what is it that is important for humanity, both in science and in other areas - say the organizers of the false Nobel .

That is why anti-Nobel is awarded, just as the real one, in all social areas. In physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, but also, for peace. As the organizers say, the rewards are sometimes a social critic, sometimes pure satire, and sometimes are intended only to make people laugh. This year’s prize for medicine was for the discovery that toboggans ride reduces symptoms of asthma, for peace that swearing increases resistance to pain, for physics that wearing socks over shoes reduces skating on ice, and for the economy, prize was given to all banks for their role in economic crisis. Prize for biology, in 1992, won a certain doctor Cecil Jacobson, relentlessly generous sperm donor, and prolific patriarch of sperm banking, for devising a simple, single-handed method of quality control. A year later, among others, for mathematics was awarded Robert Faid because he exactly calculated the possibility that Mikhail Gorbachev was, in fact, the Antichrist. According to his calculations, the chances of this are 1:710.609. Anti-Nobel for peace has received and The Taiwan National Parliament, for demonstrating that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and gouging each other than by waging war against other nations. George Goble, in 1996, received the prize for chemistry, since he found a way to ignite a barbeque grill for just three seconds, and former French President Jacques Chirac won the prize for peace for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima with atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.

Later, awards received and Dr. Bosland for biology, for breeding a spiceless jalapeno chili pepper, and The British Standards Institution for literature,  for its six-page specification (BS-6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea. Chris Niswander invented software that detects a cat walking on the keyboard, which earned him an Ig Nobel Prize for computer science in 2000. Anti-Nobel for public health received a report of Scottish scientists on "the collapse of toilets in Glasgow." Without reward did not remain and Yoshiro  Nakamats for his research in which he photographed and retrospectively analyzed every meal he had consumed during a period of 34 years, as well as mathematicians Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.  And doctor Dan Meyer has become a laureate for medicine because he explored the side effects of swallowing swords.

Robert May, Baron of Oxford, who was science adviser to the British government, has asked the organizers not to award Ig Nobel awards to British scientists, since this kind of award includes a risk that some real achievements may become public ridicule. However, many British scientists did not support this request. On several occasions, it was shown that scientific discoveries that were candidates for the Ig Nobel, after a while, turned out to be a significant contribution to humankind.  That was the case in 2006, when the award was given to the discovery that mosquitoes are equally attracted to the smell of “Limburger” cheese and human foot odor.  It is this discovery that has contributed to the creation of special traps for mosquitoes, which are used in the fight against malaria in Africa. 

Certainly, the most interesting Ig Nobels went to the Australian John Keogh and the Australian Patent Office for granting him Innovation of, believe it or not – wheel, in 2001. Then, the biology prize for the discovery that herrings apparently communicate by farting, and medicine prize for the scientific report on "the effect of country music on suicide." Also, according to organizers of false Nobel, a significant contribution to world peace gave Daisuke Inoue from Japan, the man who invented karaoke, because he “found an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other."

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