24/7 x 100 (a history of some terrific tiny lectures)

The 24/7 Lectures are a long-running part of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony – a history long enough that there have now been exactly 100 of them!

That’s 100 attempts by great thinkers to:

  • give a complete, technical description of a topic in just 24 seconds; and then
  • give a clear summary of a topic of a topic in just 7 words

Sometimes the lecturers made it look easy, sometimes they struggled (sometimes that struggle was theatrically intentional). We usually learned something – about their topic, about the skills of the 24/7 referee, or about how hard it can be to count to seven with an audience watching.

The referee and V-Chip Monitor look on while Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb gives his 2008 Lecture

Of those 100 Lectures

  • Delivered by Nobel Laureates: 24
  • Delivered by women: 54
  • Delivered by men: 46
  • Timekeeper needed: 44
  • Timekeeper NOT needed: 56
  • Average number of words in the 7-word summation: 7.21

The fact that the average word count for the 7-word part of the lectures is so near to 7 is thanks to the many lecturers who used only 7 words.  On 9 occasions, lecturers offered more than 7 words. For example, Nobel Prize Winner William Lipscomb (14 words on the topic “Redundancy”) and Nobel Prize Winner Roy Glauber (15 words on the topic “The Universe”). Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman also needed more than 7 words (8 words on the topic of “Economics”), which he neatly explained as a “rounding error” in a New York Times Opinion piece shortly after the ceremony.

Only 2 lecturers in all 22 years (so far) accomplished their task in fewer than 7 words: Don Featherstone used  only 6 words to explain his topic “Art” (“Art is the appreciation of creation“). Likewise, Missy Cummings used only 6 words to sum up her topic of “Automobile Safety” (“Don’t talk. Don’t email. Just drive“).

The lectures began in 2001 with 5 topics (Computers, Biology, Art, Sex, and Science).  From its beginning, there has always been a timekeeper and a referee. For many of those years, the Referee was Mr. John Barrett who admonished the lecturers to “Keep it clean!”

A few lectures of note:


NOTE, This list of 24/7 Lectures does not include the Heisenberg Certainty Lectures (1998-1999), the Micro-Lectures (1999), or The Inertia Debates (2006).

NOTE, The list of 24/7 Lectures does include Computers, Biology, Art, Sex, Science, Physics, Biochemistry, Neurobiology, Technology, Language, Animals, Astrophysics, Music, Slow Light, Memory, Chemistry, Education, The Genome, Heredity, Evolution, Diet, Oceanography, Morphology, Infinity, Purring, The Human Mind, What Is Life, Automobile Safety, Dark Matter, Fractals, Gray Parrots, Inertia, Food Science, Research Ethics, History, Chicken, Cryptography, Biology, Redundancy, Nanotechnology, Economics, Genius, Contraception, Slime Mold, Oral Bacteria, Writer Identification, Stress Responses, Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes, Chemistry, Vaginal Ph, The Universe, Mass Spectroscopy, The Possibility of Arsenic Based Life In Our Universe, Electro Muscular Incapacitation, Torque, Statistics, Force, Income Inequality, Food, Telomeres, Metabolism, Firefly Sex, Beauty, Reproduction, Life, Internet Cat Videos, Clock Genes, Duck Genital Morphology, Time, Fluid Dynamics, Bots, Uncertainty, Biomedical Research, The Forces Required to Drag Sheep Across Various Surfaces, Sponges, The Brain, Super Black in Animals, Incomplete Contracts, Cardiology, Viral Evolution, Serendipity, Theory of Mind, Habit, The Large Hadron Collider, Voting, Mathematical Truth, The Emergency Bra, Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), Computer Bugs, Insects, The Insect Apocalypse, Bee Stings, Soft Matter, Coffee Drinking, Excretion Dynamics, Feedback Control, Baby Washing Technology, Pigeons, Medical Knowledge, Information.

24/7 Lecturers: Benoit Mandelbrot (fractals), Rebecca German (morphology), Carol Greider (telomeres), and Richard Jakowski (purring).