The infamous, wacky Ig Nobel Prizes – one was awarded last year for a bra that converts into two gas masks – will once again be given out tonight at Harvard University to some of the most innovative and unusual researchers on the planet.
The 20th annual awards, created by the people behind the magazine "Improbable Research," are a counterpoint to the Nobel Prizes, and are given to researchers for "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."
Last year, Dr. Elena Bodnar won the Public Health Ig Nobel for inventing a bra that converts into two gas masks, and nine other awards were given for achievements such as creating diamonds from tequila, determining why pregnant women don't tip over and examining whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty one.
Believe it or not, actual Nobel laureates show up at the ceremony to award the Ig Nobel prizes, and sometimes allow the Ig Nobel researchers to experiment on them. Last year, Bodnar demonstrated how the brassiere she created can, in an emergency, be converted into a pair of protective face masks, by forcing three Nobel laureates to wear them.
Bodnar has since created a dress shirt for men that converts into a breathing mask in case of fire, explosion or chemical attack.
The Ig Nobel awards kicked off in 1991, with Vice President Dan Quayle winning a prize for demonstrating how desperately Americans are in need of science education. Over the years, Big Tobacco executives were honored for "discovering" that nicotine is not addictive, researchers who electronically monitored the brain cell activities of a locust watching Star Wars won a prize and so did those who created of an electromechanical teenager repellent.
You can watch the awards webcast on Improbable Research's YouTube channel.