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Magnetic cockroaches, dirty money, wombat poo and posties' balls: It's the Ig Nobels 2019

This year's theme was 'habits' and they were baaaaad

The Annals of Improbable Research held its annual award-giving ceremony – the Ig Nobel Prize – on Thursday night at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, and the entries were as worthy as ever.

Host for the event, top-hatted Annals editor Mark Abrams, introduced the 10 winners during a glittering evening peppered with science opera, blessedly brief keynotes and a silver-painted man holding a flashlight. Also featured were several academics who were invited in turn to give the audience a technical description of a complex concept in fewer than 24 seconds.

Star of the show, however, was the little girl who was tasked with stomping on stage to shout "Please stop, I'm bored!" whenever a prize winner's acceptance speech went on for more than a minute.

Ig Nobel Prize 2019 trophy

Ig Nobel Prize 2019 trophy

Winners were handed a unique Ig Nobel trophy, a certificate and 10 trillion (Zimbabwean) dollars. The winning research teams received their prizes from genuine Nobel laureates, including flag-hatted Brit Rich Roberts, who won his Nobel for "Physiology or Medicine" back in 1993.

10 trillion dollar Zimbabwean bank note

10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar bank note

The 2019 Ig Nobel winners were:

  • Medicine (Italy, in main photo): For collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy.
  • Medical education (USA): For using a single animal-training technique called "clicker training" to train surgeons to perform orthopaedic surgery.
  • Biology (Singapore, China, Australia, Poland, USA, Bulgaria): For discovering that dead magnetised cockroaches behave differently than living magnetised cockroaches.
  • Anatomy (France): For measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France.
  • Chemistry (Japan): For estimating the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child.
  • Engineering (Iran): For inventing a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.
  • Economics (Turkey, Netherlands, Germany): For testing which country's paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria. (Note: the Euro is the cleanest, while the US dollar and Romanian Leu are dirtiest.)
  • Common Wombat in the Tasmanian scenery

    Wombats literally sh!t bricks – and now boffins reckon they know how

  • Peace (UK, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, USA): For trying to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.
  • Psychology (Germany): For discovering that holding a pen in one's mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier, and for then discovering that it does not.
  • Physics (USA, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, UK): For studying how and why wombats make cube-shaped poo.

Youtube Video

Most of the winners were due to give free public talks on the afternoon of Saturday 14 September at MIT. You can watch a full recording of the event above. ®

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