Credit: ABC, AustraliaThis year the chemistry IgNobel prize was awarded to a team that proved oil and water don’t mix, the engineering IgNobel went for whale snot catching and the management IgNobel went to researchers who proved that organisations should promote people at random.

The celebration of science occurs annually with the announcement of the Nobel prizes. This is the time when science gets a lot of media coverage and scientists who have made a great impact on human lives are given their due recognition. At about the same time there is also a celebration of geeky humour that happens annually. It’s when the Annals of Improbable Research holds a party at Harvard University where real Nobel prize winners award the Ig Nobel prizes. These prizes are given to discoveries or inventions ‘that cannot, or should not, be reproduced’.

Credit Biwa BlogThis year’s prize in chemistry was given to US researchers and BP, for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix. The team of scientists, operators and observers (42 in all) conducted controlled discharges of oil and water in the Norwegian sea at a depth of 844 meters and concluded what we can conclude by adding oil to a glass of water in our kitchen. Although to be fair, this research must have played ‘an important role’ in the US government making the decision to fine BP and associates for their worst ever oil spill.

The engineering IgNobel went to British researchers for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter. They essentially learnt how to fly a helicopter over a whale just as it evacuates its blow-hole. The collected samples were then used to analyse the disease-causing microorganisms. Science is fun, isn’t it?

Best of all was the management prize, awarded to Italian researchers, for demonstrating mathematically that organisations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random. Essentially, this means that if Chemistry World (where I’ve joined as an intern today) has any hope of taking over the world of science magazines then they should quickly promote me to their Chief Editor’s position.

For the full list of prizes and more details, click here.

Akshat Rathi

Photo credits: oil and water, IgNobel

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