During our academic careers, we researchers have (hopefully not many) papers rejected by journals. It is a terrible feeling, so much work and effort we put into our experiments and our peers fail to grasp our terrific ideas, condemning our paper to obscurity. So, next time you may want to submit your paper to the Annals of Improbable Research and you may even be nominated for the Ig Nobel prize!
Of course, the Annals of Improbable Research is a humorous magazine; but the Ig Nobel prize is real, albeit also humorous. The prize is awarded every year in early fall at Harvard University and it is presented by a group of Nobel laureates (the real ones!). The winners of Ig Nobel prizes have published papers on unusual subjects or just “trivial” matters that don’t seem worth doing research on. My favorite Ig Nobel winner paper is entitled ‘Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans’, published by a group of scientists of the Stockholm University (Human Nature, vol. 13, no. 3, 2002, pp. 383-9). Raising chickens myself, I don’t see why this paper was chosen!
Apart from the humorous side, the Ig Nobel prizes “honor achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think.” And even though some experiments may sound silly and useless, they can have practical application. The winner of biology category in 2006, a paper showing the mosquito species that transmits malaria is equally attracted to the smell of cheese and human feet led to the development of mosquito baits using cheese. This bait has been used in African countries to control mosquito populations and thereby decreasing the incidence of malaria.
And to prove serious science may look simple and trivial, in 2000 Andre Geim won an Ig Nobel prize for his work using magnets to levitate frogs. Ten years later he won the real Nobel prize for his work with graphene.
To learn more and see a few Nobel laureates saying silly things and having fun, watch the 2010 Ig Nobel ceremony http://www.improbable.com/ig/2011/#webcastinfo.
To submit a paper to the Annals of Improbable Research, click here
To finish, a quote from Azimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’”