Research to make you laugh and think
Among this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners were studies on formation swimming in ducklings, the timing of truth and lies when gossiping and moose crash test dummies.
04 October 2022
One of the highlights of the academic year is upon us again. Among this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners were studies on formation swimming in ducklings, the timing of truth and lies when gossiping and moose crash test dummies.
The annual prize, for research that makes you laugh and then think, has been running since 1991 and is organised by the Annals of Improbable Research. Winners take part in a lively, frankly ridiculous, awards ceremony – traditionally held at Harvard University, but more recently online. Prizes are presented by real Nobel laureates.
This year’s Peace Prize was awarded to research which developed an algorithm to help the gossip-prone among us to decide when to tell the truth and when to lie. The team were led by psychologist Junhui Wu from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and included Patrick Barclay from the University of Guelph and Professor Kim Peters from the University of Exeter. ‘We didn’t even know we were nominated, [we] still don’t know who nominated us or how it was chosen. Frivolous research is usually the most boring, but it takes a special study to sound silly on the surface but actually be useful. I’m flattered to win.’
The winners of this year’s economics prize were a team from Italy who developed a mathematical explanation for why successful people tend to be lucky rather than talented. The literature prize was awarded for research on what makes legal documents so incomprehensible, and the engineering prize went to a research team in Japan who have attempted to find the most efficient way for people to use their fingers when turning a knob.
For more on the Ig Nobel prizes and search ‘improbable research’ in our online archive.