Now these are serious scientists, not just a bunch of sophomoric intellectuals, and winning an Ig Nobel confers a certain cachet. The following is taken directly from the web site of Improbable Research, and they can say it so much better than I:
"The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) is a magazine printed on genuine paper, and also in digital form on the web. Subscribe, and you'll find our very best stuff -- genuine, improbable research culled from more than 20,000 science, medical, and technical, and academic journals.
We administer the Ig Nobel Prizes, given each year for achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think.
Our goal is to make people laugh, then make them think. We also hope to spur people's curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what's important and what's not, and what's real and what's not -- in science and everywhere else?
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, 'That's funny..." --Isaac Asimov
So what qualifies for an Ig Nobel honor? In 2006, winning research included an exploration of why woodpeckers don't get headaches, a study of the different odors emitted by frogs under stress, and my personal favorite, the discovery that herring communicate with others of their kind by...how to put this delicately...passing gas.
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." --Sherlock Holmes"
All of these research projects had a serious purpose. Really, they did. And tonight, the ten newest Ig Nobel winners have traveled from all over the world, at their own expense, to accept their honors. According to the web site, "The Prizes will be handed to them by a group of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates, all before a standing-room only audience of 1200 people."
Isn't it good to know that there's still room for such silliness in the world?