It's nearly that time again! The various Nobel prizes will be awarded sometime in the next month or so and as happens every year a little ahead of the official ceremony, we get the unofficial IgNobel prizes. A play on words and a chance for science to be seen in a more playful light.
There are a number of prizes in different categories (which don't necessarily correspond to the official ones), the point being to reward research which on the face of it makes little sense but which upon reflection can get people to think a little bit.
In the past we have seen a study reporting the brain scan of a dead fish, we have learned that chimpanzees can recognise each other from photographs of their bottoms and we have also encountered a patent application for a spray containing radish extract for use in waking up sleeping people in the event of emergencies.
Since the IgNobels publicise work which seems to be quite ridiculous, the press often distort the intention of the awards and forget that the scientists involved do real science. The content of the IgNobel research is typically only a sideline or as in the case of the brain-dead fish, is an illustration of statistical control for a far more serious application. This last bit isn't as newsworthy as "silly scientists wasting public money", because statistical control is not exciting news.
This year's prizes are described along with those of previous years on the improbable research website organised by Marc Abrahams. Check it out and find out what tastes like chicken!