The Nobel, and the Ig Nobel

You've certainly heard of the Nobel Prize, an award that honors top research in medicine, physics, chemistry, peace efforts, literature, and economics. This year's Nobelists include a chemist who discovered crystals whose patterns resemble Islamic mosaics and physicists who learned that even the rate of the universe's expansion is increasing.

A lesser-known set of awards, however, are the Ig Nobel Prizes, set up by an organization called Improbable Research. From their website:

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.

This year's winners showed that having to urinate changes your decision-making process, that red-footed tortoise yawns aren't contagious, and that the spicy spell of wasabi can be used to awaken sleeping people.

The winners' projects are funny, but does that mean they're not worthwhile? The studies made me laugh, but (just as Improbable Research hopes) they also made me think. I'm a heavy sleeper, and apparently I'm not the only one. Maybe that wasabi alarm isn't so silly after all.

Watch the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony here:

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