List of Ig Nobel Prize winners

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This is a list of Ig Nobel Prize winners from 1991 to the present day.

A parody of the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in mid-September, around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced, for ten achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." Commenting on the 2006 awards, Marc Abrahams, editor of Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsor of the awards, said that "The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."[1] All prizes are awarded for real achievements, except for three in 1991 and one in 1994, due to an erroneous press release.


Apocryphal achievements[edit]

The first nomination also featured three fictional recipients for fictional achievements.[7]

  • Interdisciplinary research: Josiah S. Carberry, for his work in psychoceramics, the study of "cracked pots".
  • Pedestrian technology: Paul DeFanti, "wizard of structures and crusader for public safety, for his invention of the Buckybonnet, a geodesic fashion structure that pedestrians wear to protect their heads and preserve their composure".
  • Physics: Thomas Kyle, for his discovery of "the heaviest element in the universe, Administratium".


  • Archaeology: Éclaireurs de France, a French Scouting organization, for damaging the prehistoric paintings of two bison in the Cave of Mayrière supérieure near the French village of Bruniquel.[9]
  • Art: Presented jointly to Jim Knowlton for his classic anatomy poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom", and to the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, for encouraging Mr. Knowlton to extend his work in the form of a pop-up book.
  • Biology: Dr. Cecil Jacobson, an American fertility doctor, for impregnating several of his patients without their consent.[10]
  • Chemistry: Ivette Bassa, for her role in the synthesis of bright blue Jell-O.
  • Economics: The investors of Lloyd's of London, for refusing to pay for their company's losses.
  • Literature: Yuri Struchkov (ru),[11] a researcher at the Institute of Organoelement Compounds[12] in Moscow, for the 948 scientific papers he published between the years 1981 and 1990, averaging more than one every 3.9 days.
  • Medicine: F. Kanda, E. Yagi, M. Fukuda, K. Nakajima, T. Ohta, and O. Nakata of the Shiseido Research Center in Yokohama, for their research study entitled "Elucidation of Chemical Compounds Responsible for Foot Malodour," particularly for their finding that "people who think they have foot odor do, and those who don't, don't."[13]
  • Nutrition: The consumers of SPAM, for "54 years of undiscriminating digestion".
  • Peace: Daryl Gates, former police chief of the City of Los Angeles, for his part in the 1992 LA riots.
  • Physics: David Chorley and Doug Bower, for their contributions to field theory related to crop circles.



  • Biology: W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Krafte-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their study entitled "The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops," and particularly for their statistical analysis of defecation rates.[24]
  • Chemistry: Texas State Senator Bob Glasgow, for sponsoring a 1989 drug control law that criminalized the purchase of beakers, flasks, test tubes, or other laboratory glassware without a permit.[25]
  • Economics: Juan Pablo Dávila of Chile, stock marketeer and former employee of the state-owned company Codelco, accidentally buying more of a future, rather than selling it, as he intended. He then tried to make his money back in a series of trades that ultimately lost 0.5 percent of Chile's gross national product. Davila's actions led other Chileans to coin a new verb, "davilar", meaning "to botch things up royally".
  • Entomology: Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, a veterinarian, for conducting experiments in which he obtained ear mites from cats, inserted them into his own ear, and studied the results.[26]
  • Literature: L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author and the founder of Scientology, for the publication of Dianetics.
  • Mathematics: Awarded to The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, for their estimates of how many citizens of each of Alabama's 67 counties will go to Hell if they do not repent.
  • Medicine: A prize was first awarded to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, who was bitten by his venomous pet rattlesnake, for apparently attempting to cure himself with electroshock therapy. At the man's own request, automobile spark plug wires were attached to his lip and the car engine was run at 3,000 rpm for five minutes. A second prize was awarded to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their medical report on Patient X's case, entitled, "Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation."[27]
  • Peace: John Hagelin of Maharishi University and the university's Institute of Science, Technology, and Public Policy, for concluding that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18 percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C.[28]
  • Psychology: Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, for creating and enforcing a ban on spitting, chewing gum, and feeding pigeons.

Apocryphal achievements, no longer officially listed[edit]

  • Physics: The Japanese Meteorological Agency, for its sixteen-year study of the correlation between earthquakes and catfish wiggling their tails. This winner is no longer officially listed, as it was based on erroneous press accounts.[29]


  • Chemistry: Bijan Pakzad of Beverly Hills, for creating "DNA Cologne" and "DNA Perfume", neither containing any actual deoxyribonucleic acid, but both being packaged in a triple helix bottle.
  • Dentistry: Robert H. Beaumont of Shoreview, Minnesota, for his study entitled "Patient Preference for Waxed or Unwaxed Dental Floss".[31]
  • Economics: Awarded jointly to Nick Leeson, Leeson's superiors at Barings Bank, and to Robert Citron of Orange County, California for using calculus to mathematically show that every financial institution is limited.
  • Literature: David B. Busch and James R. Starling of Madison, Wisconsin, for their research report entitled "Rectal Foreign Bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World's Literature". Among the cases discussed in the report were the presumed insertion of the following objects into the rectum: seven light bulbs; a knife sharpener; two flashlights; a wire spring; a snuff box; an oil can with potato stopper; eleven different forms of fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs; a jeweler's saw; a frozen pig's tail; a tin cup; a beer glass; and the case of spectacles, a suitcase key, a tobacco pouch, and a magazine, all pertaining to a single patient.[32]
  • Medicine: Marcia E. Buebel, David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa, and Michael R. Boyle, for their study entitled "The Effects of Unilateral Forced Nostril Breathing on Cognition".[33]
  • Nutrition: John Martinez of J. Martinez & Company in Atlanta, for their sale of Luak Coffee, the world's most expensive coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and excreted by the luak, a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia.
  • Peace: The Taiwan National Parliament, for extensive legislative violence.[34][35]
  • Physics: Dominique M.R. Georget, R. Parker, and Andrew C. Smith of Norwich, England, for their research on soggy breakfast cereal. Their findings were published in a paper entitled "A Study of the Effects of Water Content on the Compaction Behaviour of Breakfast Cereal Flakes".[36]
  • Psychology: Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita of Keio University, for training pigeons to differentiate between the paintings of Picasso and Monet.[37]
  • Public Health: Martha Kold Bakkevig of Sintef Unimed in Trondheim, Norway and Ruth Nielsen of the Technical University of Denmark, for a study entitled, "Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold".[38]









  • Biology: Kees Moeliker, of Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first recorded case of homosexual necrophilia among mallard ducks.[154]
  • Chemistry: Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for concluding that the arsenic content of a bronze statue in the city of Kanazawa repels pigeons.[155]
  • Economics: Karl Schwärzler and the entirety of Liechtenstein, for making it possible to rent the country at a rate of US$70,000 per night.[156]
  • Engineering: John Paul Stapp, Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for the invention of Murphy's Law, in 1949, the basic engineering principle that "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it" (or, in other words: "If anything can go wrong, it will").[157]
  • Interdisciplinary Research: Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquis of Stockholm University, for their paper entitled "Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans".[158]
  • Literature: John Trinkaus of the Zicklin School of Business in New York City, for publishing 80 academic papers on topics that annoyed him. For example:[159]
    • What percentage of young people wear baseball caps with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front;
    • What percentage of pedestrians wear sport shoes that are white rather than some other color;
    • What percentage of swimmers swim laps in the shallow end of a pool rather than the deep end;
    • What percentage of automobile drivers almost, but not completely, come to a stop at one particular stop-sign;
    • What percentage of commuters carry attaché cases;
    • What percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket's express checkout lane;
    • What percentage of students dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts.
  • Medicine: Eleanor Maguire, David Gadian, Ingrid Johnsrude, Catriona Good, John Ashburner, Richard Frackowiak, and Christopher Frith of University College London, for finding that the hippocampi of London taxi drivers are larger than the average person in London.[160]
  • Peace: Awarded to Lal Bihari of Uttar Pradesh, India, on the following three counts: First, for living an active life despite being declared legally dead; second, for leading a campaign against bureaucracy and greed while legally dead; and third, for founding the Association of Dead People. Bihari, after being legally declared alive in 1994, received an Indian passport to travel to Harvard and accept his Ig Nobel Prize. However, the United States refused to admit him into the country, and his friend, Madhu Kapoor, came to the Ig Nobel Ceremony and accepted the prize on Bihari's behalf. The prize was later personally given to Bihari in a special ceremony in India.
  • Physics: Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowle, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their paper entitled "An analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces".[161]
  • Psychology: Gian Vittorio Caprara and Claudio Barbaranelli of the University of Rome La Sapienza, and to Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, for their paper entitled "Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities".[162]


  • Biology: Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Lawrence Dill of Simon Fraser University, Canada, Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Magnus Wahlberg of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and Håkan Westerberg of Sweden's National Board of Fisheries, for concluding that herrings communicate through their flatulence.[164][165] It has been suggested that the study of this phenomenon has had major political consequences. Following the stranding of Soviet submarine S-363 deep inside Swedish waters on 27 October 1981, the Swedish navy initiated a large-scale campaign to guard Swedish territorial waters from the perceived threat of infiltration by foreign submarines, despite the Soviets consistently asserting that the stranding had occurred due to navigational errors. The "submarine hunts", which lasted throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and whether or not the stranding was a Soviet infiltration was a heavily debated issue in Sweden. One widely reported piece of "evidence" were several sound recordings of what the Swedish navy suspected to be foreign submarines. Oceanographers and marine biologists were invited to study the recordings, and would eventually conclude that the sounds were most probably produced by herrings passing gas. A report by the Swedish science magazine "Vetenskapens värld" ("World of science") televised on 16 April 2012, suggests that these findings were important in putting an end to the costly "submarine hunts" which had continued for more than a decade, with Ig Nobel laurate Håkan Westerberg guessing that this would have saved Swedish tax payers hundreds of millions in SEK.[166]




  • Aviation: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek, for discovering that hamsters recover from jetlag more quickly when given Viagra.[199][200]
  • Biology: Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk, for taking a census of all the mites and other life forms that live in people's beds.[201]
  • Chemistry: Mayu Yamamoto, for extracting vanilla flavor from cow dung.[202]
  • Economics: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, for patenting a device to catch bank robbers by ensnaring them in a net.[203]
  • Linguistics: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, for determining that rats sometimes can't distinguish between recordings of Japanese and Dutch played backward.[204]
  • Literature: Glenda Browne, for her study into index entries that start with the definitive article "the".[205]
  • Medicine: Dan Meyer and Brian Witcombe, for investigating the side-effects of swallowing swords.[206]
  • Nutrition: Brian Wansink, for investigating people's appetite for mindless eating by secretly feeding them a self-refilling bowl of soup.[207]
  • Peace: The United States Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for suggesting the research and development of a "gay bomb," which would cause enemy troops to become sexually attracted to each other.[208]
  • Physics: Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan and Enrique Cerda Villablanca for their theoretical study of how sheets become wrinkled.[209]





  • Biology: Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering that certain kinds of beetle will mate with stubby bottles.[251]
  • Chemistry: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi to awaken sleeping people in the case of a fire or other emergency, and for later applying this knowledge to invent a wasabi alarm.[252][253]
  • Literature: John Perry of Stanford University for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which states: "To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important."[254][255][256]
  • Mathematics: "Dorothy Martin[257] of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson[258] of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet[259] of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim[260] of Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde[261] of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping[262] of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world [would] end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations."
  • Medicine: "Mirjam Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop,[263] and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder, Robert Feldman, Robert Pietrzak, David Darby and Paul Maruff[264] for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things – but worse decisions about other kinds of things – when they have a strong urge to urinate."
  • Peace: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for showing that illegally parked luxury cars can be addressed by running them over with a BTR-60 Armoured personnel carrier.[265][266]
  • Psychology: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for studying why people sigh in a paper entitled "Is a sigh “just a sigh”? Sighs as emotional signals and responses to a difficult task".[267]
  • Physics: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru, and Herman Kingma for trying to determine why discus throwers become dizzy, whereas hammer throwers do not, in their paper entitled "Dizziness in discus throwers is related to motion sickness generated while spinning".[268]
  • Physiology: Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl and Ludwig Huber for their study entitled "No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria".[269]
  • Public safety: John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting experiments in which a visor repeatedly flaps down over a driver's face, blinding them.[270]


  • Acoustics: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada for creating SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts speech using Delayed Auditory Feedback.[272]
  • Anatomy: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can individually recognize other members of their species when shown photographs of their anogenital area.[273]
  • Chemistry: Johan Pettersson, for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people's hair turned green.[274]
  • Fluid dynamics: Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer for researching the liquid dynamics at play when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.[275]
  • Literature: The US Government General Accountability Office, for "issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports."[276]
  • Medicine: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti, for researching how to minimize the chance of explosion during colonoscopies.[277][278]
  • Neuroscience: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for finding that with the use of complex instruments and rudimentary statistics, meaningful brain activity can even be found in a dead salmon.[279]
  • Peace: The SKN Company, for converting unused ammunition into diamonds.[280][281]
  • Physics: Joseph Keller, Raymond E. Goldstein, Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball, for calculating the physics behind ponytails.[282]
  • Psychology: Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan, and Tulio Guadalupe for their study entitled "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller".[283]


  • Archaeology: Brian Crandall and Peter Stahl, for "parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not."[285]
  • Biology/Astronomy: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles are lost, they can navigate by observing the Milky Way.[286]
  • Chemistry: Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, Toshiyuki Nagata, and Hidehiko Kumagai, for discovering the previously unknown complexity behind why onion make humans cry.[287]
  • Medicine: Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi, for researching the effect of opera on mice that have had heart transplant operations.[288]
  • Peace: Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for criminalizing applause in public, and to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man under that law.[289]
  • Probability: Bert Tolkamp, Marie Haskell, Fritha Langford, David Roberts, and Colin Morgan, for discovering that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely it will stand up, and that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon it will lie down again.[290]
  • Physics: Alberto Minetti, Yuri Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, and Francesco Lacquaniti, for concluding that some people could run in place on a body of water, if both were on the moon.[291]
  • Psychology: Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, for experimentally concluding that people who think they are drunk also think that they are attractive.[292]
  • Public Health: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for their paper entitled "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam".[293]
  • Safety Engineering: The late Gustano Pizzo, for "inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival." This device was patented under U.S. Patent 3,811,643.


  • Arctic on Science: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for researching how reindeer react to humans disguised as polar bears.[295]
  • Art: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting and being shot in the hand by a powerful laser beam, compared to that happening while looking at a pretty painting.[296]
  • Biology: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený, and Hynek Burda, for concluding that dogs prefer to align their body axis with Earth's north-south geomagnetic field lines while they defecate and urinate.[297]
  • Economics: ISTAT, the Italian government's National Institute of Statistics, for including revenue from illegal drug sales, prostitution, smuggling, and other illegal operations, in GDP reporting, so to meet an EU regulation.[298]
  • Medicine: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for researching how to treat nosebleeds by packing the nasal lining with strips of cured pork.[299]
  • Neuroscience: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Shubham Bose, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for researching the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.[300]
  • Nutrition: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga, for their study entitled "Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages." [301]
  • Physics: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima, and Rina Sakai, for measuring the friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin on the floor.[302]
  • Psychology: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for concluding that night owls, on average, are more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than early birds.[303][304]
  • Public Health: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček, Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, and Lisa Seyfried, for researching whether owning a cat is mentally hazardous.[305]


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