The Ig Nobel Prizes were created by Marc Abrahams. Abrahams is the co-founder and editor of the bi-monthly magazine the Annals of Improbable Research dedicated to scientific humor and absurd experiments. The prizes are awarded for unusual and seemingly absurd scientific achievements that make people laugh, and then think. The prizes are intended to spur the general public’s interest in modern science, technology, and medicine.
The name of the prizes is a play on the words ignoble (“of low character, aims” or “of low grade or quality”) and the Nobel Prize. Sometimes the prizes are awarded as veiled criticism of trivial research, but in many cases they are used to emphasize that even absurd-sounding experiments and discoveries can become a source of useful knowledge and advance, although often inadvertently, modern science and technology.
The inaugural Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place in 1991. Originally the ceremonies were held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but now they take place in Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. The prizes are handed out by genuine Nobel laureates. The ceremony contains a number of running gags and long-standing traditions such as throwing paper planes on the stage. It is traditionally closed with the words: “If you didn’t win a prize – and especially if you did – better luck next year!”
Every year, ten Ig Novel Prizes are awarded in many categories. Ig Nobel Prize laureates are presented a certificate signed by three Nobel Laureates. Several days after the ceremony, the winners give public lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.