Ig Nobel To Nobel: Creative (And Fun) Science Wins Two Russian-born scientists won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on graphene, the strongest and thinnest substance ever discovered. But one of them, Andre Geim, also holds a more dubious honor: He won an Ig Nobel prize in 2000 for his work on the magnetic levitation of frogs.

Ig Nobel To Nobel: Creative (And Fun) Science Wins

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

He won his Ig Nobel 10 years ago. Geim told everyone at the Ig Nobel award ceremony that levitating a frog led to lots of requests, including one from the leader of a small religious group in England...

ANDRE GEIM: Who offered us a million of pounds if we could levitate him in front of his congregation to improve his public relations, apparently.

CHARLES: There was a real point to the frog experiment, which is why pictures of it are in lots of physics textbooks. It demonstrates a phenomenon called diamagnetism. Diamagnetic materials like water are pushed away by magnetic fields, so a really powerful magnetic field can hold up a frog, which is mostly water.

ALLAN M: He's just exceptionally creative.

CHARLES: Allan MacDonald, professor of physics at the University of Texas in Austin, is a longtime admirer of Geim's work.

DONALD: He's always looking for something new, and wanting to be creative is not enough. He just has tremendous intuition.

CHARLES: Physicist Philip Kim at Columbia University remembers reading the paper and feeling scooped.

PHILIP KIM: Oh, no, that it worked out in this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KIM: That was probably my reaction, from such a simple thing, Scotch tape.

CHARLES: All of these scientists wanted to get their hands on super thin layers of carbon because they were pretty sure that this new material, grapheme, would exhibit some remarkable physical behavior.

DONALD: Things are special in two dimensions.

CHARLES: Andre Geim said today he's not too concerned about all these future uses. In fact, he told the BBC accepting his Ig Nobel prize showed more courage.

GEIM: I'm proud that we did take this prize and we have shown enough sense of humor and irony about our own work.

CHARLES: Dan Charles, NPR News, Washington.

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