The 2013 Ig Nobel Acceptance Speeches

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

Here are the acceptance speeches given by the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize winners. A few exceeded the one-minute time limit, a fact that was kindly brought to their attention by eight-year-old Miss Sweetie Poo.


Awarded to Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda, and Masanori Niimi, for assessing the effect of listening to opera on heart transplant patients who are mice.

[NOTE: During part of this speech, two of the team members, dressed in mouse costumes, sang a small portion of the opera "La Traviata"]

Masanori Niimi: Thank you, thank you so much. Tonight is a great honor for us and for all persons who are interested in the brain and neurological system. Using a mouse heart transplantation model into the abdomen, we did show the host of music---a famous opera, "La Traviata"---doo doo doo!---generated research and prolonged the life of the survivor who is saved. We hope, and we believe, these, our improbable results, are immediately used, and make people laugh and then think: brain can control immune system. I have to say thank you to my wife and my daughter---

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.]


Awarded to Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

[NOTE: Laurent Bègue sang this entire speech, accompanying himself on both guitar and harmonica.

  We hypothesized in field study 1
  That we would find a correlation
  Between perception of one's attraction
  And people's intoxication

  Results showed that in cafés and bars
  Drunkards feel more appealing
  Something links what self-perceptions are
  And ethylometric measuring

  The next step was to investigate
  Through methods more accurate
  We experimented more scholarly
  To know why boozed guys felt less ugly

  This is the results of the whole story
  When boozed guys feel they're sexy
  It's just placebo, merely expectancy
  Such a belief is a fancy.

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.


Awarded to Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric J. Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate home by looking at the Milky Way.

Some people think science is crap. Some people think even our science is crap. But this crap in this case is a vehicle to discovery. Dung beetles roll balls of poo. We explore how a sky compass works while watching dung beetles roll balls of poop, and ask how? We ask everyone to raise their eyes from a dung patch to the sky. Here a lonely nocturnal wanderer finds guidance. Seen through the eyes of beetles, the African moon and the stars lead the way to their success. Success! Hats on beetles and planetary shows tell us how all creatures, great and small, avoid getting lost in the dark. The clever compass uses the stars, the bright stripe of light in the Milky Way. Milk! South African dung beetles teach us that to do good science you have to have balls!


Awarded to Alberto Minetti, Yuri Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, and Francesco Lacquaniti, for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond---if those people and that pond were on the moon.

Have you ever had dreams of swimming like fishes and flying like birds, hovering in the three-D space? Well, today we reported even inconsiderable feats such as running on small ponds---which only small lizards and birds are able to do---is also possible for you. The only problem is that those humans and the pond need to be on another planet. By using a suspension system we found that the level of gravity below which running on water is feasible. We ran a contest within this whole system for the most suitable planet, and the winner is... the moon! Our study opens exobiology about the potential gaits of extraterrestrials adopt in the universe. We are currently working on human flapping flights. Keep in touch with us if you are interested---

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.]


Awarded to Shinsuke Imai, Nobuaki Tsuge, Muneaki Tomotake, Yoshiaki Nagatome, H. Sawada, Toshiyuki Nagata, and Hidehiko Kumgai, for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realized.

This is an onion. Onions can force you to cry. First, I want to thank all the people who have been forced to cry by onions. [At this point the researchers applied big theatrical cartoons of tears to their faces.] Tears! And of course I also thank all the onions eaten by humans. You all did a good job! Many researchers have tried to explain how onions make you cry. Unfortunately, but fortunately for us, they overlooked the most important enzyme in tear-inducing effect. Our team found a new enzyme that makes you cry. Our discovery opens the door to the development of a tasty and tearless onion. In other words, an Ig Nobel onion! Which do you like? Tearful onion or tearless onion? Ig Nobel onion! Thank you!

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.]


Awarded to Brian Crandall and Peter Stahl, for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days---all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.

We are duplicating the study, and we will be recruiting volunteers outside. We're moving bigger now. I actually did this research when I was an undergraduate twenty years ago, so I'm glad finally some recognition came. But this reflects my approach to science, which is to not force it, embrace the mystery of it, pursue it with passion, and just have fun. My current job is outside of the university setting, I actually teach science to kids, I get hired to travel to schools, and spark an interest in science to children while they're young, before they get too old to lose the interest in it. Thank you! So, just a couple of quick thank-yous. Peter Stahl, my co-author of this paper, I want to thank you for your enthusiastic support of this crazy, crazy idea. I'd also like to thank Kurt Peuschel of the Binghamton University biology department, who let an undergraduate have access to the scanning electron microscope. And also, the other faculty at the Binghamton University anthropology department, such as Ann Stahl and Randy McGuire, who shared their passion and excitement for what they do. Thank you---

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.]


Awarded to Bert Tolkamp, Marie Haskell, Fritha Langford, David Roberts, and Colin Morgan, for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.

[Just as Bert Tolkamp was about to begin his speech, his Ig Nobel Prize tumbled off the lectern onto the floor.]

That would be a good opening, if I immediately destroyed the prize. Ladies and gentlemen, I've been studying cows for most of my career, and therefore I can speak with some authority when I tell you that cows can be really boring. It's cows, you hear, that can be really boring. So, when you research cows, the best you can do is to come up with a title of a paper that at least sounds interesting... and attracts the attention of Marc Abrahams. Although I must admit that the behavior of the cows in our experiment was really, really disappointing. We all expected that these cows would be more motivated to lie down if they had been standing. But these cows just kept hanging around, and they never did what we expected of them. Although, in a sense, that makes it quite interesting. So, novel ideas come out from counterintuitive results. Thank you---

[At this point the speech was terminated by Miss Sweetie Poo.]


Awarded to Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for the medical techniques described in their report "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam"---techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck.

Nobel laureate Eric Maskin read aloud this acceptance speech sent by the winners:

It's an unexpected award.

All images from YouTube.


This article is republished with permission from the November-December 2013 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

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