Invention Discovered by IG Nobel Awards | MAKO Design + Invent

Strange Discoveries Celebrated by Ig Nobel Awards

September 25, 2012

Just because an invention is impractical, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize its merits in terms of innovation and orginality. That’s the philosophy behind the Ig Nobel Awards, which celebrate the most bizarre and humorous of scientific discoveries and inventions—like, for example, the physics of ponytails.

MAKO likes to recognize innovation in all types of inventions, so let’s check out a few memorable – but highly impractical – inventions that took home prizes this year at the 2012 Ig Nobel Awards.

Ig Nobel Prize Winning Inventions

The SpeechJammer

Cutting straight to the chase, the title of “2012 Ig Nobel Prize Winner” was awarded for an invention that cuts people off. The SpeechJammer interrupts a speaker by repeating his or her voice at a slight delay. If you have or have ever been around young children, then you know how effective this tactic is at shutting someone up. Thanks to two Japanese researchers, this annoyingly entertaining instrument of mockery actually exists and can be used to cut whoever you like off.

Aside from stealing the spotlight at the ceremony, the creators maintain that the device holds the potential for other useful applications and product development. It can alert public speakers when they are speaking too quickly or need to slow down, and it can be used to ensure “turn-taking” during meetings. But even if it never actually gets put to practical use, surely, it won’t be forgotten.

Sometimes, the most interesting discoveries may be the least useful. Using sophisticated equipment, four Americans managed to detect brain activity in dead fish. Despite the failure of this information to suggest any obvious application in the real world, it’s admittedly intriguing and won the team a prestigious neuroscience prize.

The Eiffel Tower’s Lean

This 22nd Ig Nobel Awards ceremony was held on Thursday, September 20th at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. Among the notable winners, this year was a group of Dutch researchers who won the Psychology prize for studying the phenomenon that reveals why leaning to the left causes the Eiffel Tower to appear smaller.

As a massive sightseeing landmark, it is certainly important to study the nature of its shape and structure. Although this particular characteristic may seem insignificant, it certainly perplexes tourists who visit the esteemed country of France, and now we have an answer to assuage their curiosities.

Why does coffee spill?

A professor and graduate student team took home the comically specific fluid dynamics prize for their research on why coffee spills. Their findings reveal a mixture of factors, including walking speed, mental focus, and noise.

They speculate that their resulting peer-reviewed literature could be used to design a better coffee cup but are dubious about the overall worthiness of such an innovation. After all, I am quite sure that many of us who drink coffee on a regular basis could have surmised several of the top factors that contribute to this common occurrence.

The Ponytail Explained

Perhaps the most impractical award should go to the researchers who developed the science behind ponytails. The team actually developed a mathematical equation to describe the collective properties of a bundle of individual hairs.

They found that a collection of hair behaves like a spring in such a way that the force needed to compress it is proportional to the extent it is compressed. This law, they say, is one that would apply to a large number of systems. While this may be true, it is probably safe to assume that we will not be seeing any ponytail-powered devices in the near future or ever.

But that’s beside the point. The Ig Nobel Prize Awards illuminate the strange and wonderful achievements that might never reach public eyes otherwise. The event showcases oddities that have the power to capture interest, elicit surprise, and provide some humour…just because. And the hundreds of paper airplanes that were launched into flight during the ceremony echoed that same reasoning.

Which Ig Nobel Prize Award submission fascinated you the most? Do you know of any other impractical inventions that could have made waves at this unique design competition? Let us know in the comments below!

About: MAKO Design + Invent is the original firm providing world-class consumer product development services tailored to startups, small manufacturers, and inventors. Simply put, we are the leading one-stop-shop for developing your physical product from idea to store shelves, all in a high-quality, cost-effective, and timely manner. We operate as one powerhouse 30-person product design team spread across 4 offices to serve you (Austin, Miami, San Francisco, & Toronto). We have full-stack in-house industrial designmechanical engineeringelectrical engineeringpatent referralprototyping, and manufacturing services. To assist our startup and inventor clients, in addition to above, we help with business strategy, product strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. Also, our founder Kevin Mako hosts The Product Startup Podcast, the industry's leading hardware podcast. Check it out for tips, interviews, and best practices for hardware startups, inventors, and product developers. Click HERE to learn more about MAKO Design + Invent!

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