Nobel Prize winning patents?!…Er…not exactly!


Come October and the scientific community will be geared up for the announcement of Nobel Prizes. In the same vein or rather the other way around, is another event that scientists, especially those with a sense of humor, look forward to. It is the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, which is a kind of spoof on Nobel Prizes. Ig Nobel Prize is the brainchild of Marc Abrahams who is also the editor of the scientific humor magazine, Annals of Improbable Research. The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded since 1991 for research “that makes people laugh and then think”. Each year ten prizes are awarded to the winners by real and rather amused Nobel Laureates. This year’s award ceremony is due on September 22, 2016 and will be held at Sanders Theater, Harvard University.

The following are some of the patents that were “honored” with Ig Nobel Prize.

  • The 1993 Ig Nobel Prize for Visionary Technology was granted to Julius Schiffman, the inventor of a head-up display for cars that facilitates drivers to watch video programs on the windshield of their car while driving. The award was also granted to the Michigan State Legislature for making the same legal.
  • The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize for Peace was granted to the inventors of a vehicle security system that discharges fuel through nozzles located on the sides of the vehicles and…..ignites the fuel to keep any prospective hijackers at bay!!
  • If you think that the invention of wheel is one of the significant achievements made by primitive humans, think again. As per the Australian Patent Office, the wheel was actually invented in 2001 by John Keogh. The Australian innovation patent titled “Circular transportation facilitation device” claims a wheel and axle assembly. In recognition of the re-invention of the wheel, the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for Technology was granted to the inventor, John Keogh. The award was also bestowed upon the Australian Patent Office for granting the patent. (It is to be noted that innovation patents in Australia are examined after grant, only when requested, and this patent was later revoked).


  • The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for Public Health was granted to the inventors of the patent “Garment device convertible to one or more face masks”. The convertible garment device is…..a brassiere!! In the event of any biological or chemical warfare, the brassiere can be converted into facemasks, one for the user and another for any willing bystander.


  • The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for Safety Engineering was granted to the inventor of the patent “Anti hijacking system for aircraft”. The system traps a hijacker in a plane by lowering a specific floor portion and confining the hijacker within a capsule. The capsule is attached to a parachute and the encapsulated hijacker is safely released out of the plane through special bomb bay doors. Extend your imagination a little bit more to visualize the hijacker landing safely into the hands of the police waiting down, like the climax scene of our movies.

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For more on other awardees, please check here.


The ceremony also features the popular 24/7 lectures delivered by eminent figures on chosen topics. The speaker should first give a complete technical description on the topic within 24 seconds followed by a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words. The following lists out some interesting seven-word summaries.

Topic Speaker Seven-word summary
Telomeres Carol Greider “Telomeres: keeping your cells alive since… forever”
Metabolism Rob Rhinehart “Thanks to enzymes, humans are solar powered”
Statistics Xiao Li Meng “The only crystal ball approved by God”
Force Melissa Franklin “Equal opposite attractive repulsive bang ding crash ow!”
Stress Responses Susan Lindquist “What doesn’t kill you makes you strong”
Chicken William Lipscomb “Chicken lays egg. It’s a standing ovation”
The Human Mind Robin Abrahams “People are brilliantly stupid, and stupidly brilliant”
Heredity Rich Roberts “Heredity means blame your parents, not yourself”
Biochemistry Rich Roberts “Biochemistry explains life for chemists, not physicists”
Language Jean Berko-Gleason “Babies babble, children prattle, adults create haiku”
Biology Dany Adams “If it can get infected, it’s biology”

For details on the speakers and more, please refer here.

About This Author

Dr. Usharani is a registered Patent agent. She holds a M.Sc., M.Phil. degree in Biochemistry and a Doctoral degree in Biosciences. She also holds a Postdoctoral diploma in Intellectual Property Rights and is trained by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in drafting patent applications

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