An exhibition in Tokyo is currently showcasing the insanely wonderful inventions to have won the Ig Nobel Prize, a parody of the renowned Nobel Prize.
Every autumn, the Scientific Humor Magazine and the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) organise a ceremony to recognise ten absolutely bonkers “accomplishments” in scientific research. Started in 1991, the whole thing is meant to be a chance for the scientific community to laugh at itself, while maybe coming up with some actually useful knowledge in the process.
Imagine it as the Razzies for science. But smart.
The tongue-in-cheek celebration has a very clear mantra: “Honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”
Even the name of the award is in jest: “Ig Nobel” is a cheeky reference to the word “ignoble”, which means “not noble in quality, character, or purpose; base or dishonourable.”
From September 22 to November 4, Ig Nobel Prize-winning items, sounds, photographs and activities will be shown at the AaMo Gallery at the Tokyo Dome.
At the exhibit, you’ll find past winners of the award including such groundbreaking devices as the “Bowlingual”, the handy dog language interpreter that helps humans understand the mood of their pets by classifying dog barks into six emotional categories: menace, joy, frustration, self-expression, sorrow and desire. That sounds kind of useful, right?
There’s also a bra that turns into a gas mask. Well, two gas masks to be precise.
Of course, an exhibition of this magnitude could not be complete without “Neuticles”, testicle implants for neutered dogs to boost their self-esteem and help them recover from the trauma of castration.
Not weird enough for you? How about this: One past Ig Noble laureate devised the “babypod”, a speaker that pregnant women – wait for it – insert into their vagina so they can play music to their unborn babies. The Mozart effect ramped up to 11.
But it doesn’t stop there. How could we not mention the do-it-yourself colonoscopy?
“Not many people took the test… so I wanted to create an examination that would be accepted by everyone,” said Doctor Akira Horiuchi, the mind behind this DI-why masterpiece.
Dr Horiuchi’s paper reads: “We found that a newly developed, small-caliber, variable-stiffness colonoscope, designed for colonoscopy in pediatric patients, was especially useful in patients with difficult colonoscopy.”
It isn’t surprising Japanese researchers have won Ig Nobel prizes for 12 years in a row. Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of Annals of Improbable Research and mastermind of the Ig Nobel Prize celebration, shared with AFP his thoughts on Japan’s dominance in the awards.
“In most of the world, when people behave in very eccentric ways, that’s considered to be a very bad thing,” Abrahams said.
“In Japan and also in the UK, it’s different. You don’t kill your eccentrics. You love them.”
The exhibit will also feature a hilarious gift shop and simulator booths to try some of these insane inventions.
Admission is ¥900 (A$11) for children and ¥1,400 (A$17) for adults.