The Ig Nobel prizes honor science that first makes people laugh and then makes them think. And tonight, those scientists who have made real, and hilarious, contributions to their fields, will receive awards in a whimsical ceremony at Harvard University.
The 23rd annual ceremony of the Ig Nobels, which are a spoof of the Nobel Prizes, begins at 6:00 p.m. ET tonight (Sept. 12) in the historic Sanders Theater on the campus of Harvard University. Watch a live webcast of the Ig Nobels on LiveScience.
Each winner will have just 60 seconds to explain themselves and their discovery and research during the prize ceremony. As always, some wacky contributions are expected; last year, scientists humored and enlightened the audience with the discovery that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, finding brain activity in a dead salmon, explaining why coffee tends to spill and working out the equation describing the shape of the perfect ponytail. [Hilarious Science: Gallery of the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize Winners]
The prior year, 2011, also saw some far-out findings, including the discovery of fruit bats that enjoy fellatio, that wearing socks on the outside of shoes prevents slipping and falling and that riding a roller coaster can relieve asthma symptoms.
"I think that we have an important role in making science more popular among a large group of people," biologist Kees Moeliker (who won a 2003 Ig Nobel for his probing research into homosexual necrophilia among ducks) told LiveScience. "We try to show that scientists aren't dull people in lab coats with long beards — you know, the stereotype of the mad scientist. There are people who can have very bright ideas and do great research and are very inspiring."
This year, a behind-the-scenes show will be webcast showing how the ceremony is produced and footage of the presenters of the awards, who are recipients of the Nobel Prize. This year's presenters will include Nobel laureates Dudley Herschbach (chemistry, 1986), Eric Maskin (economics, 2007) and Roy Glauber (physics, 2009).
Improbable Research, the organization that awards the Ig Nobels, also publishes the journal Annals of Improbable Research. Their editorial board "consists of fifty-odd eminent scientists, doctors, etc. from around the world, including several Nobel Prize winners and a convicted felon," according to a statement on their website.