Wouldn’t it be great if you could win a Nobel Prize for proving that herring communicate by farting at each other? Well, you can’t—the Nobel Prize committee has no interest in gassy fish. Thankfully, you can win an Ig Nobel Prize. That’s what happened to Ben Wilson and Lawrence Dill, two Canadian professors who won the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology in 2004 for this fascinating farting discovery.
The Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies have been held at Harvard University every September since 1991. From the 9,000 (or more) nominations the organizers receive each year, only 10 winners are chosen—and the prizes are awarded by actual Nobel laureates. It’s a pretty big deal.
The goal of the Ig Nobel Awards (according to their creator, Improbable Research) is to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.” If you haven’t been following the Ig Nobels, here’s just a sampling of the scientific breakthroughs you’ve missed out on:
In 2016, Ahmed Shafik was awarded the Ig Nobel Reproduction Prize for studying the effects of polyester, cotton and wool trousers on the sex life of rats.
In 2015, Diallah Karim (and a list of researchers whose names I cannot spell) won the Ig Nobel Diagnostic Medicine Prize for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by driving patients over speed bumps.
In 2015, professors Justin Schmidt and Michael L. Smith won the Ig Nobel Physiology and Entomology Prize for creating a pain index that rates how much it hurts to be stung by honey bees. It’s worth noting that Professor Smith volunteered to be stung on the penis as part of this study.
In 2014, four researchers in the U.S. and India won the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize for proving that you can stop a bad nosebleed by shoving cured pork up your nostrils.
In 2012, two French doctors won the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize for their research into how to reduce the risk of patients exploding during colonoscopies.
In 2011, seven researchers in Japan won the Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize for determining the ideal amount of wasabi you would have to spray onto a sleeping person to awaken them during a fire or other emergency.
In 2010, two veterinarians from the Zoological Society of London, England, won the Ig Nobel Engineering Prize for determining how to collect whale snot using a remote-control helicopter.
In 2009, Elena Bodnar won the Ig Nobel Public Health Prize for inventing a bra that—in an emergency—can be quickly converted into two protective gas masks.
In 2004, Daisuke Inoue of Japan won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke, thereby (to quote the Ig Nobel committee) providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.
The 27th Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony is scheduled for September 14, 2017. The tickets—all 1,200 of them—go on sale this July, and they’re expected to sell out fast. If you have a scientific mind (and love learning about things like herring farts and wasabi-spraying smoke detectors), this is truly a can’t-miss event.