The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony


The '99 Winners
The '99 Ceremony
Hear it (audio)
See it (video)

The Ig Informal Lectures (at MIT)
Ig Medical Lecture (at HMS)

The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

WHEN & WHERE: The 9th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was held on Thursday evening, September 30, 1999, at Harvard University's Sanders Theater.

WHY: The Igs are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science.

WHAT: The annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony honors individuals whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced." Ten prizes are given to people who have done remarkably goofy things -- some of them admirable, some perhaps otherwise. At the ceremony, 1200 splendidly eccentric spectators watch the winners step forward to accept their Prizes. The Prizes are physically handed to the winners by genuinely bemused genuine Nobel Laureates.

AND WHAT'S MORE: The ceremony was jam-packed with a variety of momentously inconsequential events, including:

WHENCE: The event was inflicted on you by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).
It is co-sponsored by:

The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

SOCIOLOGY:  Steve Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops.

PHYSICS:  Dr. Len Fisher of Bath, England and Sydney, Australia for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.
Professor Jean-Marc Vanden-Broeck of the University of East Anglia, England, and Belgium, for calculating how to make a teapot spout that does not drip.

LITERATURE: The British Standards Institution for its six-page specification (BS-6008)  of the proper way to make a cup of tea.

SCIENCE EDUCATION: The Kansas State Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease.

MEDICINE: Dr. Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, for carefully collecting, classifying, and contemplating which kinds of containers his patients chose when submitting urine samples. (REFERENCE: "Unyttig om urinprøver," Arvid Vatle, Tidsskift for Den norske laegeforening [The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association], no. 8, March 20, 1999, p. 1178.)

CHEMISTRY: Takeshi Makino, president of The Safety Detective Agency in Osaka, Japan, for his involvement with S-Check, an infidelity detection spray that wives can apply to their husbands' underwear.

BIOLOGY: Dr. Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Pepper Institute, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, for breeding a spiceless jalapeno chile pepper.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Hyuk-ho Kwon of Kolon Company of Seoul, Korea, for inventing the self-perfuming business suit.

PEACE: Charl Fourie and Michelle Wong of Johannesburg, South Africa, for inventing an automobile burglar alarm consisting of a detection circuit and a flamethrower.

MANAGED HEALTH CARE: The late George and Charlotte Blonsky of New York City and San Jose, California, for inventing a device (US Patent #3,216,423) to aid women in giving birth -- the woman is strapped onto a circular table, and the table is then rotated at high speed.

See the Ceremony (Video)

What: The ceremony was telecast live on the Internet, with help from our biological and chemical friends at HMS Beagle and The Alchemist. It's about two hours long.

Musical suggestion: Beforehand, print out the words to The Seedy Opera, and have them on hand during the telecast.

Get yourself some popcorn and paper airplanes, then click below to see video of the 1999 Ig ceremony.


A specially edited version of the ceremony was broadcast on National Public Radio's "Science Friday with Ira Flatow" program on November 26, 1999. (This is a longstanding traditionóthe day after American (but not Canadian!) Thanksgiving!)

You can an archive of that broadcast and previous years' broadcasts on the SciFri web site!

Science Friday

A related event:
The Ig Informal Lectures --
happened on Saturday, Oct 2, 1999

What: Six of the new Ig Nobel Prize winners attempted -- successfully! -- to explain their work. Each of these Ig Lectures was approximately 20 minutes long.  (Two other new winners were at the Thursday night ceremony, but had to scoot home the next day.) The afternoon included:

Where: MIT's Wong Auditorium.

A related event:
Ig Nobel Medical Seminar --
happened on Monday, October 4, 1999

What: DR. ARVID VATLE, winner of the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, gave a special seminar at Harvard Medical School. Click here to see the text of Dr. Vatle's talk.

Dr. Vatle and his work were saluted with tributes by DRS. ANDREA DUNAIF, JOANN MANSON, and MICHAEL O'LEARY.

Where: Carrie Hall, Brigham & Women's Hospital

Free Poster

Here is the ultra-attractive Ig 99 poster.
Download and print either the cool, Iggy black-on-white version  or the even cooler and Iggier white-on-black version.

Print it, and post it in strategic places, please!

Artistic credits: The poster was designed by Keith Clark. The Ig 99 logo (the "Hereditary Stinker") was created by Peaco Todd, modifying the traditional "Stinker" design by Lois Malone.