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In 1990, as editor of a science magazine, Marc Abrahams encountered plenty of important research. He also saw lots of science that was just plain hilarious—but those researchers remained obscure. “So,” he says, “we began to celebrate them.” He held the first Ig Nobel awards in September 1991. In the decades since, the ceremony has honored research that probes why woodpeckers don’t get headaches, and whether humans swim faster in syrup or water (it’s a wash). It’s work that lives up to the Ig Nobel tagline: “Research that makes people laugh and then think.”

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