By on September 27, 2016


It has been a year since we learned that Volkswagen’s tranquil and oh-so-green “clean diesel” utopia was actually a carefully constructed facade hiding a scorched wasteland of pollution and lies. Apparently, that doesn’t mean the jokes need to stop.

The scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research has awarded the financially hurting automaker with a notorious prize that most recipients usually build a fun evening around. It’s extremely, no, absolutely likely that Volkswagen didn’t appreciate the humor.

On September 22, AIR held their Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University, celebrating unusual, offbeat and often pointless scientific achievements. Actual Nobel Prize winners usually hand out the awards. This year’s recipients included the late Ahmed Shafik, who won the Reproduction Prize for studying “the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.”

Last year’s Chemistry Prize went to a group of Australians who developed a chemical process to partially unboil an egg. However, this year’s top spot in chemistry went to a group of Germans (known to most as “Volkswagen”).

The automaker was awarded for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.” According to the university, nobody showed up to collect the prize. Had the automaker sent a delegation, their grim faces would likely have sucked the life out of the room.

It’s possible that the increase in environmental scrutiny and new testing methods developed in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal warranted Volkswagen a Peace Prize, but that award went to a group of Canadians for their study, “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.”

h/t to Rudy Lukez

[Source: Popular Mechanics]

(Correction: the Ig Nobel Prize is administered by the publication Annals of Improbable Research, with the ceremony occurring at Harvard University. The university does not organize the event. The story has been changed to reflect this.)

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17 Comments on “Former ‘Clean Diesel’ Maker Wins Notorious Harvard Prize...”

  • avatar

    I thought ignition switches that can actually kill you, would be a pretty impressive feat of engineering. and should have been in the running for the prize

    • 0 avatar

      Fortuitous accidents get a different prize: the Homer.

    • 0 avatar

      GM isn’t even in the same league. The overall number of recalled vehicles from GM is around 30 million world wide (with around 125 deaths actually attributed to the faulty switch). Which is about 3 times as many vehicles as are effected by the emissions scandal from Volkswagen but when you consider the overall impact of those increased emissions GM by comparison is a rank amateur.

      • 0 avatar

        Rank amateur?125 deaths? Emissions if EFI,bad emissions may well and truly exceed VW, as three times the number were involved

      • 0 avatar

        Cripes, the government thugs have done an exemplary brainwashing job on people in this country. “Scorched wasteland of pollution and lies?” Puh-leeze — the additional emissions of these diesels has had ZERO effect on anyone. Zip. Nada. Zilch. The only thing VW has done wrong is to bow and scrape at the feet of the EPA gangsters rather than growing a set. If you want lies, check out the hatchet job the the EPA did on DDT. Many countries took the agency’s action as gospel and millions died agonizing deaths from malaria as a result. VW is not even in the same league as the liars, bullies, goons, and murderers in government.

        • 0 avatar

          ZERO effect?

          In my hometown of London, the annual death toll due to particulates alone is in the order of many thousands.

          “The total mortality burden of anthropogenic PM 2.5 for the year 2010 is estimated to be 52,630 life-years lost, equivalent to 3,537 deaths at typical ages..”

          You couldn’t link a particular coal fire to a particular death in the great London smogs of the early Fifties, but when the evil government brought in regulation, the death toll dropped. Similarly, you can’t point to a particular VW and say that the car is a killer, but given the numbers involved it seems that an annual death toll in the US of a few dozen and in Europe of a few hundred is involved.

          As for the diversionary paper on DDT and Malaria, I remember this all started with the tobacco companies trying to create a category of “junk science” into which they could then put the well-founded concerns about tobacco. As with many things the details get complicated but at the very top level all the talk of millions dead because of environmentalists is another big lie. See for example the debunking that Aaron Swatz did:

    • 0 avatar

      I would have put my money on confusing celebrity killing gear shifts.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s awesome; Volkswagen certainly earned it.

  • avatar

    The late Ahmed Shafik? Sounds like there may be a story there, related to his work with rats and trousers.

    Actually, the unboiled egg sounds like it could maybe have some real-world uses, if it’s actually reversing the chemical processes we call cooking.

  • avatar

    While the Igs are presented in Harvard’s Sanders Theater, they are not actually put on by Harvard. The ring-leader is one Mrac Abrahams, who describes them in this TEDx video:

  • avatar

    VW must have gotten the idea from studying the last of the Pontiac 455 Super Duty V8s.

  • avatar

    While no one is arguing VW played outside the rules, but I am damn sure my MKIV TDI is just as dirty as the now much maligned 2.0TDI but the only thing that made them illegal was some arbitrary set of rules set out by some faceless bunch in some boardroom. While cleaner air is terrific, why don’t they outlaw all the older cars that don’t even have converters much less some DEF system. Funny how they chose the one class of vehicles that domestic manufacturers did not even give two hoots about and still don’t.

  • avatar

    What about the Annual Donald Trump “Bend The Truth” Award?

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