It was bound to happen eventually. An Ig Nobel Prize winner has become an actual Nobel laureate. Andre Geim, a 51-year-old, Russian-born physicist who has gained renown for his work with the substance graphene, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
It was just 10 years ago that Geim was honoured with a satirical Ig Nobel Prize for using magnets to levitate a frog. The 20-year-old Ig Nobel awards are given out for achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think, during a ceremony which features real Nobel laureates handing out the prizes. The ceremony at Harvard University typically closes with the phrase "If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!"
Geim's luck must have improved substantially in the decade since winning the Ig Nobel. The Annals of Improbable Research, which hosts the Ig Nobel ceremony, triumphantly announced Geim's victory in a press release.
"Congratulations to Andre Geim, new Nobel Prize winner in physics," the Ig Nobel organizers said. "He becomes the first to win, as an individual, both a Nobel Prize (this year, together with Konstantin Novoselov, for experiments with the substance graphene) and an Ig Nobel Prize (in the year 2000, shared with Sir Michael Berry, for using magnets to levitate a frog)."
The Ig Nobel committee notes that "technically, Andre Geim is not the very first person to have been awarded both an Ig Nobel Prize and a Nobel Prize — but he is the first to win both as an individual. Bart Knoll, who (together with Ruurd de Jong) was awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize in Entomology (for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limberger cheese and to the smell of human feet) was also one of the hundreds of employees of the International Atomic Energy Agency who together were awarded a Nobel Prize in peace in 2005."
This week, the Nobel Prize committee cited Geim "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene"
"Imagine a sheet of material that's just one atom thick, yet super-strong, highly conductive, practically transparent and able to reveal new secrets of fundamental physics," the Nobel Foundation said. "That's graphene, isolated by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, 2010 Nobel Laureates in Physics."
Geim's Nobel win comes just a few days after the most recent Ig Nobel ceremony, which honoured among others researchers who study the sexual practices of fruit bats and the habit microbes have of clinging to bearded scientists.