Winner of Joke Nobel Wins Real Physics Nobel Prize

The man who levitated a frog is now producing a super-material using Scotch tape

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Ten years after winning the parodic Ig Nobel prize for levitating a frog with magnets, Russian scientist Andre Geim has snagged the real thing. On Tuesday, the prestigious physics Nobel went to Geim and his collaborator Konstantin Novoselov for their work on wonder-material graphene. Nice comeback, right? Here are the details.

  • Okay, Fair Enough This shall serve, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boingboing, as "a friendly reminder that the IgNobel awards are not here to point fingers at the useless and foolish in science, but, rather, to draw attention to studies that sound funny, but often have some serious thought going on behind the guffaws." The magnet-frog business, for example, was actually "around serious ideas about magnetic levitation, a phenomenon best known for its application in Maglev trains."

  • Not Technically the First to Win Both, notes Marc Abrahams at Improbable Research. Bart Knols was an International Atomic Energy Agency employee who, as a member of the group, won the Nobel in 2005. In 2006, he and his partner Ruurd de Jong got stuck with an Ig Nobel 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." Also, Abrahams digs up the video of Geim's original levitating frog:

  • What Graphene Is The work the real Nobel was awarded for was with a "miracle material made of carbon," explains Good's Morgan Clenandiel. Graphene is "so strong that if you stretched a sheet of it over the top of a coffee cup, it could support the weight of a truck, even if all the weight of that truck was concentrated in a point the diameter of the tip of a pencil."
  • What Geim and Novoselov Did "Physicists had known about [graphene] for years," explains Andrew Moseman at Discover, "but these two showed the way to produce it quickly and easily"--using Scotch tape, of all things, as The New York Times' Dennis Overbye notes. "The award was a bit of a surprise," says Moseman, "given that the scientists' work is so recent" and Novoselov, in particular, is so young (36), but "the selection could be a popular one among physicists."
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