Friday, March 8, 2024


The Nobel Prize is the most prestigious award given for intellectual achievement. However, the Ig Nobel Prize, first awarded in 1991, celebrates the most trivial and ridiculous things the best and brightest minds have studied.

The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. Its aim is to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and on the word ignoble.

Organized by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the Ig Nobel Prizes are presented by Nobel laureates in a ceremony at the Sanders Theater at Harvard University, and are followed by the winners' public lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ten prizes are awarded each year in categories including physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, economics, and peace, public health, engineering, biology, and interdisciplinary research.

Winners receive $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, which is virtually worthless, and each is given one minute to deliver an acceptance speech enforced by an 8-year-old girl, Miss Sweatie Poo, whining "Please stop. I'm bored."

Throwing paper planes onto the stage is a long-standing tradition. For many years Professor Roy J. Glauber swept the stage clean of the airplanes as the official "Keeper of the Broom". Glauber could not attend the 2005 awards because he was traveling to Stockholm to claim a genuine Nobel Prize in Physics.

Although the Ig Nobel Awards are veiled criticism of trivial research, history shows that trivial research sometimes leads to important breakthroughs.For instance, in 2006, a study showing that one of the malaria mosquitoes (Anopheles gambiae) is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger cheese and the smell of human feet earned the Ig Nobel Prize in the area of biology. As a direct result of these findings, traps baited with this cheese have been placed in strategic locations in some parts of Africa to combat the epidemic of malaria.

2023 Winners

The 33rd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place on Thursday, 14 September 2023, Winners were”

Chemistry and Geology:
Jan Zalasiewicz,F
For explaining why many scientists like to lick rocks.
According to Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester:
Mineral particles within rocks stand out better on a wet surface than on a dry one, so licking makes rocks easier to identify in the field. Zalasiewicz was also nostalgic for the days when scientists did more than just lick rocks—they cooked and, in some cases, actually ate the materials they studied, saying “We’ve lost the art of recognizing rocks by taste."

Chris Moulin, Nicole Bell, Merita Turunen, Arina Baharin, and Akira O'Connor
For studying the sensations people feel "when they repeat a single word many, many, many, many, many, many, many times."
The study participants copied the same selection of words over and over (and over) and were told to stop if they started feeling "peculiar," which usually occurred (in two-thirds of the participants) after 30 repetitions, or about one minute—the point of "semantic satiation." For instance, there were sensations of words losing their meaning the more one looked at them , or a familiar word suddenly seemed strange.

Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura
For experiments to determine how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food.

Christine Pham, Bobak Hedayati, Kiana Hashemi, Ella Csuka, Tiana Mamaghani, Margit Juhasz, Jamie Wikenheiser, and Natasha Mesinkovska
For using cadavers to explore whether there is an equal number of hairs in each of a person's two nostrils.
They used 20 cadavers (10 male and 10 female) from the medical school at the University of California, Irvine. Not only were the hairs counted in each nostril, but they used a measuring tape to determine the distance of hair growth at the upper, lateral, and lower nostril. The results: The average nose hair count per nostril is between 120 and 122 hairs, and nose hairs typically grow over a range of 0.81 to 1.035 centimeters.

Mechanical Engineering:
Te Faye Yap, Zhen Liu, Anoop Rajappan, Trevor Shimokusu, and Daniel Preston
For re-animating dead spiders to use as mechanical gripping tools.

Public Health:
Seung-min Park
For inventing the Stanford Toilet, a device that uses a variety of technologies such as dipstick test strip for urine, a computer vision system for defecation analysis, an anal-print sensor paired with an identification camera, and a telecommunications link that can analyze the substances that humans excrete.

Bieito Fernández Castro, Marian Peña, Enrique Nogueira, Miguel Gilcoto, Esperanza Broullón, Antonio Comesaña, Damien Bouffard, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, and Beatriz Mouriño-Carballido
For measuring the extent to which ocean-water mixing is affected by the sexual activity of anchovy fishes.

Katy Tam, Cyanea Poon, Victoria Hui, Wijnand van Tilburg, Christy Wong, Vivian Kwong, Gigi Yuen, and Christian Chan
For carefully studying the boredom of teachers and students.
Students and their teachers from two secondary schools were asked to keep a diary for two weeks, recording their degree of boredom; students were also asked to rate how bored they perceived the teachers to be and how motivated they felt each day in class. The researchers found that, indeed, when a teacher was bored, students were less motivated to learn. And even though students' perception of when teachers were bored was inaccurate, their perceptions also resulted in lower motivation. Boredom begets boredom, no matter if it's real or perceived.

María José Torres-Prioris, Diana López-Barroso, Estela Càmara, Sol Fittipaldi, Lucas Sedeño, Agustín Ibáñez, Marcelo Berthier, and Adolfo García
For studying the mental activities of people who are expert at speaking backward.

Stanley Milgram, Leonard Bickman, and Lawrence Berkowitz
For experiments on a city street to see how many passersby stop to look upward when they see strangers looking upward.
This study reported on the relationship between the size of a stimulus crowd, standing on a busy city street looking up at a building, and the response of passersby. As the size of the stimulus crowd was increased a greater proportion of passersby adopted the behavior of the crowd. 
(This should get the award for proving the bleeding obvious).

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