About Marc Abrahams

Marc Abrahams writes about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.

IG NOBEL PRIZES: Marc founded the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony in 1991, and serves as Master of Ceremonies. The prizes are handed out by genuine, bemused Nobel laureates in a gala event held every year at Harvard University, and broadcast on public radio.

Marc Abrahams
(Photo by David Kessler)

WRITING: He co-founded and edits the magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and wrote This is Improbable, The Ig Nobel Prizes, and other books. He edits and writes much of the web site and blog www.improbable.com, and the monthly newsletter mini-AIR. For thirteen years, he also wrote a newspaper column (called "Improbable Research") for The Guardian. He created and hosted the Improbable Research podcast (in collaboration with CBS Radio, later with Scientific American).

The Washington Post called Marc "the nation's guru of academic grunge." The Journal of the American Medical Association called him "the Puck of Science." He has been called many other things. The Guardian said Marc's writing is "rationalism taken to intoxicating extremes".

SPEAKING: Marc does public talks (and private talks, too), drawing on his vast file of improbable research about everything that humans have devised, discovered, or desired. Every February, he hosts a special Improbable Research show at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Every March, he leads the Ig Nobel EuroTour, performing live shows in cities across Europe. If you want your audience — no matter who they are — to remain awake and interested, invite Marc to talk with them.

OPERAS: Marc has written the librettos for twenty-three funny, science mini-operas that premiered as part of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies. These mini-operas honor the tradition of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons "What's Opera, Doc?" and "Rabbit of Seville"— each mini-opera is a pastiche that marries a brand new story & words to beloved old music (from operas, popular songs, etc.).

MAGAZINE COLUMNS, TV, RADIO: Marc also writes for other publications, on science, technology, medicine, and other topics. He is or has been a regular columnist for several magazines, including: Cómo Ves (in Mexico), The Harvard Business Review, Zeitwissen (in Germany), Le Scienze (in Italy), Etiqueta Negra (in Peru), Chemistry World, the technology magazine Embedded Systems Design, and the engineering magazine Design News, and was the back-page humor columnist for the late, lamented computer magazine Byte. He has also been a commentator for ABC-TV's World News Now and public radio's "Science Friday" program.

BOOKS: Marc wrote the books The Ig Nobel Prizes, The Man Who Cloned Himself, Why Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans, This Is Improbable, This is Improbable Too, The Ig Nobel Cookbook, volume 1 (co-authored with Corky White and Gus Rancatore). He edited (and wrote much of) the science humor anthologies The Best of Annals of Improbable Research and Sex As a Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble (and other improbabilities). These also appear in numerous translations (of which his favorite is Der Einfluss von Erdnussbutter auf die Erdrotation).

PRESS: Marc and several Ig Nobel Prize winners are the heroes in a manga in Young Jump Magazine, Japan's most popular manga magazine. The Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony has also been the subject of several documentaries. (Marc explains the essence of the Ig Nobel Prizes in a PBS NewsHour Weekend interview. You might enjoy reading some other press clippings.)

BACKGROUND: From 1990-1994, Marc was the editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results. In 1994, after the magazine's publisher decided to abandon the magazine, the founders and entire editorial staff (1955-1994) of the Journal abandoned the publisher, and immediately created AIR. The Improbable Research editorial board of more than 50 distinguished scientists includes many Nobel Laureates, several Ig Nobel Prize winners, IQ record holder Marilyn Vos Savant, and a convicted felon. Marc described how it all began, in an essay for The Guardian.

Marc has a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard College, spent several years developing optical character recognition computer systems (including a reading machine for the blind) at Kurzweil Computer Products, and later founded Wisdom Simulators, which used computers to give people experience in making excruciating decisions. Marc is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study called "Marc Abrahams: Annals of an Improbable Entrepreneur." He is married to psychologist Robin Abrahams, who writes the "Miss Conduct" advice column for the Boston Globe Magazine.

Here's Marc's TEDMED talk (more than a million people have watched it—more than seven billion people have not):


At the USA Science and Engineering Festival, with an audience of high school students:


At Imperial College London, on the Ig Nobel EuroTour:


The Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard University:

Marc and many kangaroos

Marc on the cover of a manga

Marc (second from right) the day after the August, 2004 show at the University of Tasmania. (Photo: Wayne Goninon)

Marc and several Ig Nobel Prize winners are the heroes in a two-episode (1, 2) manga in Japan's Young Jump magazine.