Last week at our weekly Physics Colloquium seminar here at the University of Queensland, we were fortunate enough to have a presentation by the winner of this year's Ig Nobel Prize in Physics, our very own Prof. John Mainstone. For those not familiar with the Ig Nobel prize, as you might have guessed it is a take on the more well known Nobel Prize. The prize is intended to "celebrate the unusual and honor the imaginative".
This years winners included:
- Prize in Medicine: for the invention of Neuticles - artificial replacement testicles for dogs.
- Peace Prize: for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie "Star Wars."
- Prize in Economics: for inventing an alarm clock that runs away and hides, repeatedly, thus ensuring that people DO get out of bed, and thus theoretically adding many productive hours to the workday.
- Prize in Chemistry: for conducting a careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question - can people swim faster in syrup or in water?
- and many more...
Most important, of course, is the Prize in Physics, which Prof. Mainstone received for patiently conducting an experiment that began in the year 1927 - in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly, slowly dripping through a funnel, at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years, also known as the pitch drop experiment. This experiment is officially the longest running experiment in history and is still going strong.
For those living in Brisbane, you can witness this exciting and dynamic spectacle by visiting the UQ Physics Department where the experiment is on display.
The moral of this story? If you've ever had a completely ludicrous invention, but never had the courage the make it known, the Ig Nobel Prize might be the break you've been seeking.