SoT 201: The 2015 Ig Nobel Prizes

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Daniel Midgely

Listen to this episode: (56:21)

The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from unboiled eggs to painful bee stings!

You can watch the award ceremony here.

The Chemistry prize was awarded to a team from Australia and the USA “for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg“.

The Physics prize went to scientists from the USA and Taiwan “for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds)“.

The Literature prize was awarded to linguists from The Netherlands, USA, Belgium and Australia “for discovering that the word “[huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why“.

The Management prize was given to three business school professors, “for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences“.

The Economics prize went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police, “for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes“.

The Medicine prize was awarded jointly to two groups, “for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities)“.

The Mathematics prize was given to Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer, “for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children“.

The Biology prize was presented to scientists from Chile and the USA, “for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked“.

The Diagnostic Medicine prize went to researchers from the University of Oxford and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, “for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps“.

The Physiology and Entomology prize was jointly awarded to two individuals. Justin Schmidt got the gong “for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects“. Michael L. Smith was granted the prize “for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm) and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft)“.


Daniel Midgley is a linguist at the University of Western Australia. He is also a presenter on Talk the Talk, a weekly podcast and radio show on RTRFM 92.1 in Perth, discussing new and interesting ideas in the world of language. He blogs at Good Reason and on Google+.