Improbable Science Reigns at the Ig Nobel Prize Awards

"The Stinker," the Ig Nobel Prizes' official mascot, contemplates the strange science that the award ceremony honors. (Image credit: Annals of Improbable Research)

How many awards ceremonies include Nobel Prize-winning presenters, performing chemists, a miniopera and a double deluge of paper airplanes? Just one — the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

This offbeat yearly event — celebrating somewhat strange scientific studies from around the world — is the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). And on Thursday (Sept. 22), at Harvard University in Boston, scientist winners will take the stage for the 26th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony to accept accolades for their gloriously weird research. [8 Strange Things Scientists Have Tasted]

The presentation is officially identified as both the 26th and the first of its kind because "every year is a new beginning," Abrahams told Live Science in an email. The ceremony will be webcast live on Live Science starting at 5:40 p.m. ET.

Like the more mainstream Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobels for science are awarded for outstanding achievements; however, the science they showcase is unusual, to say the least.

The winners of the 2015 Ig Nobel in biology attached weighted sticks to chickens' backsides, to investigate how certain types of bipedal dinosaurs with long tails might have walked. Chemistry winners that year managed to partially unboil a hard-boiled egg, while a winner of the prize for physiology and entomology submitted to honeybee stings on 25 locations on his body, to find out which regions were the most painful.

Even the dress code for the event reflects its lighthearted tone — recommendations on the AIR website include "your old wedding gown," "suit of armor," and "labcoat or longjohns." A winner of the 2015 Ig Nobel in physics wore a toilet seat around his neck, a nod to his research on how long it takes mammal species of different sizes to empty their bladders.

Every year, Nobel laureates hand out Ig Nobel prizes; the 2016 presenters will include past winners of Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics and medicine. In a so-called "IgBill" — a theatrical Playbill-like outline of the evening — the event is divided into two parts: "Pointless Preamble" — all activities up until the awards presentations — and "Everything Else," which includes the awards, introductions of past winners and, intriguingly, "Other Things."

An especially novel addition to the Ig Nobels this year is an anniversary celebration commemorating a wedding that took place at the Ig Nobel ceremony in 2001, between two NASA scientists.

Other scientist guests will be delivering 24/7 Lectures, in which they describe their science in two challenging presentations: one that lasts 24 seconds and one made up of only seven words that "anyone can understand," according to the IgBill.

The festivities will also feature a premiere performance of the original miniopera "The Last Second," a nod to the 2016 ceremony's designated theme: Time. Written by Abrahams — his 21st libretto for the Ig Nobel ceremony — it describes a stealthy scheme to add a leap second to all the clocks of the world, for nefarious criminal gain.

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science editor for the channels Animals and Planet Earth. She also reports on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.