Wouldn’t it be great if you could win a Nobel Prize for proving that people are more likely to take risks at slot machines after touching live crocodiles? Well, you can’t—the Nobel Prize committee has no interest in reptile-induced gambling sprees. Thankfully, you can win an Ig Nobel Prize. That’s what happened to Matthew Rockloff and Nancy Greer, two Australian professors who won the 2017 Ig Nobel Prize for Economics for this fascinating discovery.
The Ig Nobel 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 missed the 27th Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony (it was held on September 24 of this year), here’s just a sampling of the stunning scientific breakthroughs you missed:
Marc-Antoine Fardin won the Ig Nobel Physics Prize for proving that, although we think of cats as solid objects, they move like liquids when they want to squeeze into small spaces.
James Heathcote, a British researcher, won the Ig Nobel Anatomy Prize for proving that, yes, old men really do have big ears.
On a somewhat troubling note, a group of Spanish doctors won the Ig Nobel Obstetrics Prize for their discovery that fetuses make faces if music is played inside their mothers’ vaginas.
Proving that age is never a barrier to greatness, Jiwon Han—a high school student in South Korea—won the Ig Nobel Fluid Dynamics Prize by studying why we spill coffee, but not wine, when walking backwards.
Have trouble telling identical twins apart? No need to feel badly about it, anymore. According to an Italian researcher (Matteo Martini), 50% of identical twins have trouble telling themselves apart when they’re flipping through photo albums. Naturally, Dr. Martini was awarded the Ig Nobel Cognition Prize for this discovery.
The 28th Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony is scheduled for September, 2018. The tickets—all 1,200 of them—will go on sale in July, and they’re expected to sell out fast. If you have a scientific mind—and love learning about things like liquid cats and old men’s ears—this is a can’t-miss event.