Harvard University presents its anti-Nobel prizes

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Last week, the famous American university awarded various scientific studies with humor. Anti-Nobel Prizes, also known as Ig Nobel (pun between Nobel and vile), are awarded to researchers making rather unusual discoveries.

Every year since 1991, the American Harvard University awards its anti-Nobel prizes to scientists who have carried out funny research. Ten prizes are awarded in fields that have already been awarded the Nobel Prizes, or are close to them. The purpose of this ceremony is to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imagination and stimulate interest in science, medicine and technology. "
Source: The Ig® Nobel Prizes
This year, the awards ceremony took place on September 12. Heart transplants in mice, running on the surface of a pond and even terrorist traps are some of the subjects of study that were awarded at the 23e ceremony. “The winners, who had traveled at their own expense, had 2 minutes for their acceptance speech, and it was an 8-year-old girl who, uncompromising, made sure they stayed within the allotted time. "
Source: Press
The following activities will give you a new perspective on science!


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:
- Know the existence of anti-Nobel prizes and know what their purpose is;
- Compose questions about anti-Nobel prizes;
- Use the "Search" function on a web page;
- Reflect on the impact of studies awarded an anti-Nobel Prize;
- Imagine a research on an unusual subject of your choice;
- Prepare or participate in a ceremony, in class, rewarding the best ideas for unusual research.

Suggested activities

ACTIVITY 1: Discover the Ig Nobel

First, ask the students if they can say what a Nobel Prize is. Explain to them what these prices are. Then tell them that there are also anti-Nobel prizes. Ask them if they know what it is. What can anti-Nobel Prizes reward? To find out, have students read the following article:
Anti-Nobel: Harvard rewards unusual studies
Published in La Presse, September 12, 2013
Then invite the students to consult Wikipedia article on Ig Nobel Prizes in order to discover different rewarded unusual studies.
Have students create an Ig Nobel Prize Quiz. As a team, they must compose three questions like the following:
- In what year did Robert Matthews receive the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for his studies on Murphy's Law, and particularly for his demonstration that toast often falls on the buttered side?
- Why did the Pepsi-Cola company win the 1993 Peace Prize?
- What was the subject of the study winning the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology in 2008?
Then group the students' questions into a handout and ask them, individually, to complete this quiz. Instruct them to use the Internet "Search" (Ctrl + F) function on the Wikipedia page to search for keywords for each question. This way, they will find the answers faster and familiarize themselves with the term search function on a web page.
Finally, correct the questionnaire as a whole class. Discuss the students' impressions after the activity. Which Ig Nobel Prizes do they find the funniest? Why?

ACTIVITY 2: Reflection on unusual scientific studies

Tell students that the purpose of anti-Nobel Prizes is first to make people laugh, but second to make them think.
Suggest that the students reflect on the results of different studies that have won an anti-Nobel Prize.
The studies in the following diagram are good food for thought. For each award, have students identify the topic by looking at the Ig Nobel Prizes Wikipedia page. Then they should find other information on the web about the study. Finally, discuss as a whole class the impacts of each.

Click on the image to enlarge.
Download the source file in Inspiration (.isf) format
Download the file in PDF format


For further

It is the students' turn to organize an Ig Nobel Prize-giving ceremony!
In teams of two, the pupils must imagine an unusual scientific study. In a short paragraph, they should introduce their research topic and explain how their study would be carried out.
Then choose a few students to form a selection board. Each team must present its research topic to the other students in the class.
Finally, ask the jury to select the top five studies and hold an in-class awards ceremony. A small group of students can even make small statuettes to give to the winners. Students can also share the results of this activity in the school newspaper.

More about the magazine

Ig Nobel Prize
Wikipedia article
Improbable Research
Website of the organization that awards the Ig Nobel Prizes
The 23rd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony
Video of the ceremony on YouTube

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