Lectures and seminars

The IgNobel Prize – science at its most peculiar, comical and absurd

2016-03-1314:00 to 15:30 The Gustaf Retzius hall, Berzelius väg 3, Karolinska Institutet Campus Solna

The winners of the IgNobel Prize are on a tour of Scandinavia, and will be coming to Sweden and Karolinska Institutet to talk about research that is everything but conventional in terms of its subject matter and method.

IgNobel is a play on the name Nobel and the word ignoble, which means inferior and undignified. The prize was first awarded in 1991 to honour research of the more unusual and creative kind. It is now awarded annually in ten different categories, including those of the official Nobel Prize.


Marc Abrahams, founder of the IgNobel Prize and editor-in-chief of the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), hopes to make us reflect on how we decide what is and what is not important, be it in science or in our everyday lives. Discoveries that stick out as strange and ludicrous can actually make us think again and help us understand our world a little better.

Elisabeth Oberzaucher, IgNobel laureate in mathematics. Using mathematical models and assumptions about fertility, she has calculated how many children a man can have during a period of approximately 30 years. It is said that Moulay Ismael, who ruled Morocco in the early 1700s, had 888 children. Oberzaucher has shown that this was possible, and has found that when a man has between 50 and 100 harem concubines there is no point acquiring more wives in order to have more children.

Michael L. Smith, IgNobel laureate in physiology and entomology. Smith won the prize for his studies on how pain varies from one part of the body to another. After letting bees sting him repeatedly on 25 different places on his body, he found that the most sensitive parts were the nostrils, upper lip and the shaft of the penis. The three least sensitive parts were the head, the tip of the third toe and the upper arm.

Mark Dingemanse, IgNobel laureate in literature. Dingemanse has discovered that the word “huh?” or similar seems to be a universal feature of language. His research involved a dozen languages, including Dutch and Chinese. The fact that the word “huh?” exists in every language suggests that a one-syllable interrogative is an optimal adaptation of the language to quickly involve a person in a conversation.

The lectures are jointly arranged by the Swedish Skeptics Association and Karolinska Institutet.

For information, contact:

Gustav Nilsonne, researcher and physician
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
+46 (0)73 679 8743