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2013 Ig Nobel Prizes

ig nobel mascot

Science is serious business, but it is also a giant playground for comedy and drama. The annual Ig Nobel Prizes epitomize this playful nature of science, rewarding scientists for research that makes people laugh and then makes them think. Past winners have won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for figuring out how to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds, and the Ig Nobel Biology Prize for explaining the bizarre mating behavior of certain Australian beetles.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast live today at 5:30 pm EDT. For those who are in Cambridge, MA on Saturday, the Ig Nobel laureates will present informal lectures explaining their research. More details are available here.

Hackathons Coming to a University Campus Near You This Fall


The stereotype of a computer programmers is that of an antisocial person sitting in a cubicle or basement, staring at a computer screen late into the night. Although there may be some truth to this, writing code that matters often requires quite a bit of social interaction. None of the software that we use today would be around if it were not for the collaboration of thousands of software engineers who exchanged ideas, fixed each others bugs, and perhaps even provided moral support.

For young programmers, getting together with their peers as well as with seasoned veterans is an educational experience that elevates programming from homework assignments and tests to serious product development that can affect lives. This October MIT is hosting its annual hackathon, a three day get-together for college students and high school students who are eighteen years old or older, that serves as an engineering fest and competition. Students can build anything they want while sharing ideas with fellow participants and learning from invited experts. A few weeks later, Yale is hosting its inaugural hackathon with a similar format. If you’re an undergraduate interested in the software industry, either event is the place to be. If you teach computer science and your college or high school does not host hackathons, you should consider organizing them as a way to get students to work together on exciting projects.

Google Science Fair 2013: Pre-College Research Recognized

Google Science Fair

Winning science competitions is clearly not a requirement for future successful scientific careers, and the winners of these competitions are not necessarily geniuses, although they are definitely bright. That said, an event like the Google Science Fair can be a good motivator for students. This annual event lets students from all over the world submit their research projects online, which are then evaluated by a panel of experts that includes Nobel laureates. The winners receive various awards and there are several age categories with their own prizes, but of course the future opportunities that come with winning are the greatest reward. Perhaps, the most important lesson from such a competition is that learning should not be limited by school textbooks and that sufficiently motivated students can go far if they follow their intellectual curiosity. If you have a science fair project ready you still have a week to submit it. Even if you don’t take part this year, following the work of the winners is an educational experience in itself. Good luck!

2013 Cambridge (MA) Science Festival April 12 – April 21

If you’re anywhere near the Boston area in the second half of April don’t miss the 7th annual Cambridge Science Festival featuring lectures from some of the world’s top researchers, hands on activities, theatrical performances, a robot zoo, and much more. One of the outstanding features of the Cambridge Science Festival, unlike other science events, is that everyone from elementary school kids to adults with science backgrounds will find something interesting to see or do there. If you haven’t been to Cambridge Science Festival before you can see videos of some past activities on their Youtube channel.