As you note, the Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.
This has certainly been true for me -- when you read a one-line description of an Ig Nobel prize you thing "what?" ... but when you read into it further it really makes you think...
From your descriptions Brian it seems the human race has not advanced much in the past year...??
Whenever I hear of Rapunzel I always think of the great Don Martin of Mad Magazine and his take on the tale:
(And scroll down a bit)
I believe one of the prizes given out this year was for studying the motion of coffee sloshing around in a mug that is being carried down a hallway, probably on a calibrated carpet. Now this is truly noble science and should probably hence be called Igignoble instead. This is something most people do every day and want to know the best way to carry the cup walk and maybe what tune to whistle (Java Jive, probably) to keep the coffee calm. And then of course if you have successfully carried the cup to your office like me, without a spill, while you are breathing a sigh of relief it will finally slop generously over the side as you set it down on your desk. Yep, it never fails. Big puddle of coffee on the desk.
Well here is something that might earn someone a Nobel prize some day. When you stir a cup of tea or coffee, there is a slight but noticeable change in the pitch of the noise the spoon makes on the cup as you start stirring. Why?
Hey David, that is certainly a nice simulation subject for a supercomputer. The model of the cup of tea in this experiment must be a multiphysics model that includes the ceramic cup, and analyzes the sonic wavefronts being changed by the CFD refraction interfaces.
I learned long ago that carrying a cup with a spoon in it cut down on the sloshing. As a freshman basketball manager in high school one duty was to make the coach's coffee and carry it to him without spilling it on the court. The other prime task was answering when he called, "Manager! Gelusil!"
Science Friday has carried part if not all of the Ig Nobel awards on their weekly show shortly after the actual presentations. You may catch Science Friday live on Friday afternoons or via a podcast or via the AUDIO link on their web site (www.sciencefriday.com).