The Ig Nobel Prizes and Improbable Research

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A Frontiers in Science lecture co-sponsored by the School of Physics and the School of Public Policy


The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, then THINK. Ten new prizes have been awarded every year since 1991, in gala ceremonies at Harvard and MIT, with winners traveling from around the world, and Nobel laureates physically handing out the Ig Nobel Prizes. The whole history of science, technology and medicine is a parade of things that at first made people LAUGH, then THINK. The Igs focuses public curiosity on the early, thought-provoking, "Is it good, bad, or too-early-to-tell?" stage of things.  

About the Speaker

Marc Abrahams is the editor and co-founder of Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) and the originator and emcee of the annual Ig Nobel Prize celebration. He was editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results (JIR) from 1990 to 1994.

After JIR's publisher decided to abandon the magazine in 1994, the founders and entire editorial staff (1955-1994) of JIR abandoned the publisher and immediately created AIR. AIR's editorial board of more than 50 distinguished scientists includes many Nobel laureates, several Ig Nobel Prize winners, IQ record holder Marilyn Vos Savant, and a convicted felon. Marc described how it all began, in an essay for The Guardian.

Abrahams has a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard College, spent several years developing optical character recognition computer systems (including a reading machine for the blind) at Kurzweil Computer Products, and later founded Wisdom Simulators, which used computers to give people experience in making excruciating decisions.

He is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study called "Marc Abrahams: Annals of an Improbable Entrepreneur." He is married to psychologist Robin Abrahams, who writes the "Miss Conduct" advice column for the Boston Globe Magazine.

About Frontiers in Science Lectures

Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.


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    A. Maureen Rouhi
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