30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

The 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony happened entirely online on Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 6:00 pm (US eastern time). Ten new prizes were awarded for things that make people LAUGH, then THINK.

Since 1991 we have held the ceremony live and in person.
Since 1995 we have been broadcasting it live online.*
Because of COVID-19, 2020 was the first (and hopefully will be a rare) year that we have held it only online.

*The 1995 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was one of the very first events ever videocast on the Internet, and possibly the first event that was not a music concert.

How/Where to Watch    |    What Languages?    |    Ceremony Details
Support The Igs    |    Who’s Who    |    Ig Lectures    |    Favorite Moments    |    Countdown!

Watch video of the entire ceremony:

The ceremony happened in (or subtitled in) several languages, in addition to the usual English:

The New York Times for Kids, China produced this animated introduction to the 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes. We enjoyed collaborating on this, and hope you enjoy watching it:

The ceremony itself included most of the traditional elements:

  • Winners — Ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners were introduced. Each winner (or winning team) has done something that makes people LAUGH, then THINK
  • Presenters — A gaggle of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel laureates handed the Ig Nobel Prizes to the new Ig Nobel winners—Eric Maskin (economics, 2007), Frances Arnold (chemistry, 2018), Rich Roberts (physiology or medicine, 1993), Marty Chalfie (2008, chemistry), Jerome Friedman (physics, 1990), Andre Geim (physics 2010)
  • Mini-Opera — A new mini-opera (called “Dream, Little Cockroach”) premiered as part of the ceremony. (The plot: A man dreams that, although he was always a cockroach, he has been transformed into a human being. People argue about how to respond. They decide to make him their leader.) Maria Ferrante directed the opera. It starred singers Maria Ferrante, Dr. Fred Tsai, Bobbie Hill, Jan Hadland, Ted Sharpe, and Lizhou Sha; actor Alexey Eliseev, instrumentalists Yulia Yun (piano), Dr. Thomas Michel (accordion), Dr. Julie Reimann (cello), and Dr. Bruce Koplan (bass). Karen Hopkin and Christopher Hopkin narrated. Bruce Petschek directed the video and the special animation. Alexey Eliseev engineered the instrumental recording sessions.
  • 24/7 Lectures — Several of the world’s great thinkers told us, briefly, what they were thinking about (first in 24 seconds, then in 7 words) in the 24/7 LecturesElena Bodnar (The Emergency Bra), Marty Chalfie (Green Fluorescent Protein), Masako Kishida (Computer Bugs), Mark Hostetler (Insects), May Berenbaum (The Insect Apocalypse), Michael Smith (Bee Stings)
  • Paper Planes — Paper airplanes flew.
  • Welcome Goodbye — The traditional Welcome, Welcome Speech and Goodbye, Goodbye Speech maintained the standard for what welcome speeches and goodbye speeches should be.
  • And — Some other stuff. Including bugs. That’s the theme of this year’s ceremony: Bugs

Normally, we fund the ceremony almost entirely from ticket revenues, plus a few small amounts from generous donors. But in 2020 there were no theater tickets, and so no ticket revenues. Our expenses were lower (no theater rental!), but still substantial. If you or your organization would like to help, please donate to the Ig.

In the Ig Informal Lectures, the new winners explain, if they can, what they did and why they did it. Normally the lectures happen at MIT, two days after the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. But in this pandemic year, it’s all happening online only.)

We are posting these lectures, one at a time, here on www.improbablecom.wpcomstaging.com and on YouTube. Here are the release dates:

  • November 26th, 2020: Economics
  • December 3rd, 2020: Psychology
  • December 17th, 2020: Medicine
  • December 24th, 2020: Physics
  • December 31st, 2020: Entomology
  • January 7th, 2021: Acoustics
  • February 4th, 2021: Materials Science

Ig Informal Lecture for the 2020 Economics Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Psychology Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Medicine Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Physics Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Entomology Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Acoustics Prize:

Ig Informal Lecture for the Materials Science Prize:

WHO’s WHO 2020
The Laureates and Lecturers listed on this page are impressive, but WHO makes the ceremony happen? Who are the designers, technicians, lurking presences, and decision makers who work for the chance to see their name mis-spelled on our Who’s Who 2020 page?

UPDATES: We will announce further details here on the web site, and also in mini-AIR (our monthly e-newsletter) and on Twitter and on Facebook.

Each day closer to the ceremony (on September 17th) comes with another video glimpse of past Ig Nobel improbableness. Yes, that happened. There are 15 such glimpses. Watch them all!

Take a look back at more normal times with the 2019 CEREMONY VIDEO, or watch much EARLIER VIDEOS. We have videos going back to 1995 (We were one of the first live webcasts ever).

We asked some past Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony participants, organizers, and audience members, to tell us, every-so-briefly, their favorite personal Ig Nobel experience. The result is this ever-growing Playlist of Ig Nobel Favorite Moments on our YouTube channel. There is also a second playlist of slew of favorite moments in the Daily Countdown to the 30th First Annual Ceremony.