Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Ig-Nobel prizes need renaming

Researchers awarded with (Ig)Nobel prizes have “achievements that make people laugh, then think.” Some consider them to perform wasteful research, but they may be wrong.

David Hu found in a report by Senator Jeff Flake to be “the country’s [USA] most wasteful scientist” – as he says in a TED Talk at Emory, theatrically kneeling before a laughing audience.

The research which gave him such prize was on discovering the time of urination for several animals (humans included) and establish the Law of Urination.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but what is interesting is that his apparently “wasteful” work is helping diagnosis of prostate health issues, establish the baseline for an adequate working bladder neuroprosthesis, and even help in the design of prosthetic urethras. His work is actually helping people’s lives. More than the millions spent to build systems like LIGO, which as valuable to develop our understanding of the universe, but unclear about improving people’s lives.

Science is not a straight path with a known destination but driven by curiosity into turbulent eddies with only a mild idea of the final destination. This is why science is so fascinating, and also why we should rename Ig-Nobel prizes to Im-Nobel prizes because they might be more imaginative than you think.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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