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MIT student blogger Snively '11

The Igs by Snively '11

Where Science meets Silly. Hello Silly!

I’ll assume that we’ve all heard of the Nobel Prizes, yes? Perfect, now how about the Ig Nobels? The Ig Nobels are a humorous offshoot of the prestigious Nobel Prizes, honoring individuals for achievements that makes people laugh and then think. What does this mean? Well, basically, scientists and researchers from around the world are selected because they have research that seems completely absurd. They are then voted on, discussed, and eventually cropped down to the final prize winners.

I know you’re saying to yourself “I’m ridiculous! I can do really absurd research! I should win an IgNobel!” More power to you, but here’s what you’re up against:

In the category of Linguistics — Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.

In the category of Peace — The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon — the so-called “gay bomb” — that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.

In the category of aviation — Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.

Do you still think you’re capable of something worthy of an Ig Nobel?

The reason I bring this up is because the Ig Nobels take place in Cambridge Massachusetts, the happy little home of MIT and Harvard. The ceremonies traditionally take place at Harvard and the informal lectures that follow several days later are at MIT. While I missed the ceremonies, I did make a point of going to the informal lectures.

The informal lectures are when you get a chance to actually hear the reasoning behind all of this research. Consider it a “Why” to the “Huh?!” Each speaker has 5 minutes to share all of their research and try to convince the audience that they aren’t off their rocker. To avoid any speakers hogging the stage it’s tradition to employ two members of the audience to help with moving the show along. When they asked for two volunteers I did the typical 6th grade “Me Me Me Me Me!” and waved my hand around from near the back of the lecture hall (actually, it was a subdued and altogether graceful raising of my hand). The MC picked me and said “Great, we have a time keeper! Do you have a watch with a second hand?”

Uh oh. I look at my watch. I stuttered for a bit. I look around at the 200 people in the room, all looking at me. I then look back down at the MC, at which point I had to confess.

“Actually, I’m wearing a binary watch.”

Everybody around me and throughout the lecture hall just started laughing and clapping, it was pretty amazing. I was quickly handed a watch with a second hand by Mason ’10 and was all set. I was teamed up with an associate time-keeper. Her job was to sit up front near the speaker and turn her cell phone up to an obnoxiously loud volume. My job was to call her every minute and tell her how many minutes were left in each person’s presentation. Here’s a picture of us exchanging phone numbers:

The rest of the ceremony went off very well, with me calling and her warning. We heard stories about homosexual mallards, bottomless bowls of soup, and vanilla extracted from cow dung, creating a great start to the day. I fully intend on going to both the ceremonies AND the lectures next year so I can get the true Ig experience.

29 responses to “The Igs”

  1. Mike says:

    I think the binary watch moment deserves a place in the annals of moments that define MIT. I mean, how many other places can you go that would get you applause for such a watch?

  2. Aditi says:

    that sounds entertaining *understatement alert*

    “rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards. “

    haahahahhahaaaAHAAA!!! i think i died laughing! five times over and ummm i wont even start with the others!

    snively i would kill to be you, especially for that binary watch :D

  3. Anion says:

    @ sanja
    clocky and its AUTHOR??
    she did get an ig…and was from MIT(where else!)

    @ snively
    is that a MOTORAZR that u are using?

  4. Snively says:


    Yep, it’s a RAZR. My other phone didn’t survive frat rush (those log rides at 6 Flags are killer) so my parents had to ship me a new phone. Actually, now that I think about it, 4 of the 9 freshmen on my floor have had to replace their phones since we’ve started classes.

  5. Travis says:

    That binary watch is AMAZING!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    haha, that sounds very amusing smile
    when did that take place?

  7. Akshay says:

    You know there were once some questions about some historical events and people thought the answers were in the questions only as they asked for the place or period for they lasted. But when the answers came out it made people reconsider what they were laughing at and suddenly removed that smile from their faces and made them think.

    I think this Ig Nobel is like that only. These scientists/researchers are doing something which will amuze us at first but after attending their lectures it will lead us to some thinking which we never thought of.

    These Ig Nobels are quite interesting people after all.

  8. Akshay says:

    I am not capable of something like this right now

  9. Carolina says:

    Your posts are overwhelmingly entertaining. I love it.

  10. Marissa says:

    The hamster line made me laugh out loud XD

  11. Isshak says:

    Is your RAZR pink ? Just wondering…^^’
    But anyway, MIT destroying my phone is something that should not happen to an intl student that has all of his friends’ and familys’ phone numbers !
    I’ve just read what a binary watch is on the link you gave us. Can you actually read the time on it ?

  12. Piper says:

    Actually, I think I AM capable of something like this.

  13. mani says:

    please tell me process of admission in mit for phd in biotech

  14. Sanja says:

    I am not 100% sure, but I think that Clocky and its author got Ig Nobel smile

  15. Rena says:

    Is it possible to get two B+’s in one quarter grade period on your junior year transcript and still be eligible for MIT? The rest of the grades are variations of As.

  16. Snively says:


    Absolutely, don’t worry about it.

  17. PS says:

    @Isshak: Actually you can

    BTW, take a look at Darwin Awards; the only prize you will receive after death.

  18. Masud says:

    The rat thing sounds honestly like something I would seriously suggest to my friend that we undertake research in…

  19. archimedes says:

    You know it’s good when wikipedia has an entry on binary watches!

  20. E. Rosser says:

    I WANT A BINARY WATCH! Need to get it soon, though, so I can learn how to read it in time for summer camp… wink

  21. Hyun Jin says:

    The binary watch part was great, really cracked me up.

    I’m curious though… what were the reasons behind the rodent linguistics comprehension experiment? And… I wonder what backwards japanese sounds like.

  22. Lauren says:

    That’s weird, that the maker of Clocky got an Ig Nobel. Hehe, Clocky sounds like a GREAT idea to me!

    *I want one* *lol, alarm clocks never wake me up…*

    Anyway, great post! Also, that binary watch is awesome!!! *claps*

  23. Lauren says:

    Also, I never knew the Ig Nobel “ceremonies” take place in Cambridge! *shame on me, I am from pretty close to Cambridge*

    I’m totally going to those next year!! :-D

  24. thesoffish says:

    Heh, I have the retro 70’s Driver LED watch from ThinkGeek, which I guess they don’t carry anymore; unfortunately it stopped working recently, but it’s still under warranty.

  25. PFM says:

    Does a High TOEFL score compensate for a medium/low critical reading score?

  26. Akshay says:


    If you are an international student then only one will count towards testing requirement either SAT Reasoning Test or TOEFL and they’ll take whichever is higher. So don’t worry.

  27. Piper says:

    @PS – Actually, you can be living and receive a Darwin award (or maybe it’s an honorable mention). You can do so by making it impossible for you to reproduce, hence Darwinism still wins =P

    @Rena – The only time I got straight A’s was second semester freshman year. So yeah, you’re definitely not out of the running.


  28. yeah another person from Oregon!
    I play in the same athletic conference as Salem, nice place (although not the nicest drive there from Redmond)

    sorry to add such a meaningless post, I was just pleasantly surprised by the Oregon tag. I’ll be sure to wear my Oregon attire at MIT and we will have to fondly look back at our time on the other coast (even though neither of us live/lived on “the coast”).

  29. Sanja says:

    Yup, that was what I wanted to say… but my thoughts aren’t under the control of my brain lately smile Tnx wink