The 2012 Ig Nobel Prizes

There’s still time to get tickets for the September 20 Ig Nobel Prize award ceremony at Harvard, where ten researchers will receive recognition for unusual discoveries.  The prizes are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of “The Annals of Improbable Research” and author of a new book, This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens and Other WTF Research.

The ten Ig Nobel winners, whose identity has not been revealed, will receive their certificates from “real” Nobel laureates.  According to Abrahams, some dedicated scientists hold awards in both categories.  He cites Andre Geim  and Michael Berry, two UK physicists, who won an Ig Nobel in 2000 for using magnets to levitate a frog.  Ten years later, Geim and a student won a Nobel prize for producing graphene (two-dimensional carbon) in sufficient quantities to study.

Dr. Elena Bodnar, with her Ig Nobel prize winning bra that quickly converts to a protective face mask.

Past Ig Nobel winners who plan to attend this years ceremony include Dr. Bodnar, pictured above, as well as:

  • L. Mahadevan, a Harvard professor, for a “mathematico-physics analysis of how sheets get wrinkled.”
  • Dr. Richard Gustafson for research: “The failure of self-administered automobile-engine-supplied-electric-shock treatment for rattlesnake envenomation resulting from patient’s pet rattlesnake biting the patient on the lip.
  • Dr. Francis Fesmire, for an article in The Annals of Emergency Medicine entitled, “Digital rectal massage as a cure for intractable hiccups.”

Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch won a 2006 Ig Nobel for research on why spaghetti, when broken, often splits into more than two pieces.

  • Dan Mayer for an article on the medical effects of sword swallowing.
  • John Perry of Stanford for his “Theory of Structured Procrastination.”
  • Don Featherstone, creator of the pink plastic flamenco.
  • Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Australia, for her study of the word “the” and the problems it creates for people who try to alphabetize things.

Marc Abrahams

Marc Abrahams says the Ig Nobel committee is looking for research and inventions that make people laugh and then make them think.  “We also hope to spur people’s curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what’s important and what’s not, and what’s real and what’s not — in science and everywhere else?”

A very good question! To learn more about this year’s prizes, check here:

Two short story competitions

If you happen to have a 4000 word short story in your drawer all ready to go, you’re in luck.

I haven’t been paying too much attention to writing contests this summer, so the deadline for the 2012 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Competition – September 14 – snuck up on me. Here are the details if you have a piece you can polish in two weeks:

Of greater interest to me is the short short story contest for works up to 1500 words, with deadline set at November 15. That’s enough time to create something from scratch. Not that short shorts are easy! They’re very challenging but I find them compelling to write as well – they’re like a a small sketch, a place to test an idea and reshape it before committing to a longer format. Here is the link to this contest.

The word count may be limited but the prizes are not.  First place wins $3000, publication in Writer’s Digest, and an expense paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York next year.

Worth thinking about!

American Literary Merit Short Story Contest

A friend on a writer’s mailing list sent this notice of the ALMA short story contest.  First prize is $1000 and inclusion in the ALMA Short Story Compilation for 2013.  Word limit is 3000.  Due date is Nov. 12, 2012.  The entry fee is $15 before Aug. 12 and $20 after that.  Here are the details:

Historical Novel Contest

I haven’t been posting writing contests recently, but a local author sent this one out, and I know several readers who may be interested.  Sponsored by The Historical Novel Society International, this contest has an $8000 prize plus ebook publication with professional editing and cover design.  Initial entry of a synopsis and first chapters, to 5000 words, due Sept. 30, 2012.  The fee is $25 for non-society members.  “Historical fiction of any kind admissible.”

What ho, ye valiant lads and lassies of the quill – go for it!

And We Have A Winner!

That’s right, a winner in the: Caption the Condom Cartoon Contest  (announced here last week

There were at least a few positive outcomes after Rush Limbaugh’s slur of law student, Sandra Fluke, which inspired the contest.

1) One positive result:  I got to use some great alliteration in the contest name. 

2) Another bit of good news:  eleven sponsors bailed on Rush after his outburst.  Unfortunately, a Republican Super-Pac stepped in with bailout money.  Apparently some consider Limbaugh’s mouth too big to fail.

3) And best of all, at least for this blog, Camille w1ns a $10 Amazon gift card with her caption:

If only Rush’s parents had known how to use me properly… 

Please stop by Camilles blog and see what other clever things she is up to:

And thank you all for your entries and for stopping by to share a laugh!

My First Ever, Caption the Cartoon Contest!

My recent resolution to stay more positive on this blog is challenged almost every time I pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news.  Believing that laughter is better than tears, and in keeping with this week’s headlines, I’m announcing a little contest:

Thanks to for this royalty-free cartoon

I’m guessing that everyone who isn’t living with wolves knows why poor little Mr. Happy is sad. I will award a $10 Amazon gift card to the best caption for this cartoon, submitted as a comment to this post by midnight PST, Saturday, March 10.  Multiple entries are encouraged.


If you have been on vacation, or on a media fast, or if you live in a country that still has real political debate, you may not have heard of the controversy over rules that require health-care providers to cover contraception even if it violates the conscience of certain faith-based employers.  Throwing gasoline on the fire, conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, called Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student, a “slut” and “a prostitute” after she testified in favor of insurance coverage of birth control.

So now that you know the story, what are you waiting for? Get busy writing your captions!

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

I just received this announcement for the 81st annual Writer’s Digest writing competition, seeking entries in ten categories:

  • Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
  • Memoirs/Personal Essay
  • Magazine Feature Article
  • Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
  • Mainstream/Literary Short Story
  • Rhyming Poetry
  • Non-rhyming Poetry
  • Stage Play
  • Television/Movie Script
  • Children’s/Young Adult Fiction

As one would expect, there are nice prizes and nominal entry fees, with the top ten winners in each category to be named in the November, 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest.  Here is a link to the announcement page, where you can find links to the rules and regulations, as well a place to sign up for notification of the many contests WD holds every year, especially for short fiction and poetry.

If you’re interested in the Children’s/YA section, you will notice that although the category is listed on the main page, details such as word count are missing from the rules and the FAQs.  There is a “Contact us” link that gives phone number and email for questions like this.

Good luck to everyone.  I know several people who have been listed in the “top ten,” and it’s quite an honor, since the Writer’s Digest competitions always draw a large number of entries.

Contests for Short-Short Stories and Poetry

Fall seems to be the busy time for writing contests and here are details on two new ones from Writer’s Digest.  How does $3000 for a 1500 word story sound?  Nice work if you can get it, and someone will!

The 12th annual Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story Competition has top prizes of $3000, $1500, and $500, plus prizes of $100 for the next six selections, and $50 WD book credits for those who place 11-25.  Names and story titles of the top 10 winners will be published in the magazine and posted online.  The deadline is is Nov. 15 and you can read the details at

The 7th annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Competition has a similar schedule of prizes though they are less, for the maximum length is 32 lines.  All styles are welcome and names of the top 10 winners will be published in the magazine and published on the WD web site.  The deadline is December, 1 and details are here:

Finally, don’t forget the ongoing WD contest for longer stories in six categories. Entries are due in September and October, with details available here in an earlier post: