2023 Ig Nobel Prizes Honor Unusual Research

2023 Ig Nobel Prizes Honor Unusual Research

Author: ChemistryViews

The 2023 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded to ten winners this week. The award honors unusual or seemingly bizarre research that “makes people laugh … then think.” The prize, which was invented by Marc Abrahams, has a humorous and sometimes satirical approach but serious goals: promoting an interest in science in the general public, making research more accessible, and showing the relevance that even “strange” research can have. Marc Abrahams is Editor and Co-Founder of the Annals of Improbable Research, a former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

Nobel Prize winners regularly present the Ig Nobel Prize—this year, the Chemistry Nobel Laureates Frances Arnold, Marty Chalfie, and Barry Sharpless (among other Nobel Laureates) took part in the ceremony, which was held in the form of an online broadcast. The winners explained their research, often in a very entertaining manner. The prizes come with prize money of 10 trillion dollars—Zimbabwean dollars from a time of extreme inflation, however—and the ceremony includes a traditional paper airplane-throwing section.


The Winners

  • Chemistry and Geology
    Jan Zalasiewicz, for explaining why many scientists like to lick rocks [1]. Licking rocks makes it easier to identify them in the field because mineral particles in rocks adhere better to a moist surface than to a dry one.”
  • Medicine
    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 [2]. The study could be helpful in treating patients with alopecia, a disease that causes hair loss. People with alopecia often lose their nose hair, which makes them susceptible to allergies and infections.
  • Public Health
    Seung-min Park, for inventing the Stanford Toilet, a device that uses a variety of technologies — including a urinalysis dipstick test strip, a computer vision system for defecation analysis, an anal-print sensor paired with an identification camera, and a telecommunications link — to monitor and quickly analyze the substances that humans excrete for health purposes [3–6].
  • Physics
    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 anchovies [7].
  • 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 [8].
  • Nutrition
    Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura, for experiments to determine how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food [9].
  • Psychology
    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 [10].
  • Communication
    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 [11].
  • Education
    Katy Tam, Cyanea Poon, Victoria Hui, Wijnand van Tilburg, Christy Wong, Vivian Kwong, Gigi Yuen, and Christian Chan, for methodically studying the boredom of teachers and students [12,13].
  • Literature
    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 [14].



[1] Jan Zalasiewicz, Eating Fossils, Paleontol. Assoc. Newslett., November 2017, 96.

[2] Christine Pham, Bobak Hedayati, Kiana Hashemi, Ella Csuka, Margit Juhasz, The quantification and measurement of nasal hairs in a cadaveric population, J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2020, 83, AB203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2020.06.902

[3] Seung-min Park, Daeyoun D. Won, Brian J. Lee, Diego Escobedo, Andre Esteva, Amin Aalipour, T. Jessie Ge, Jung Ha Kim, Susie Suh, Elliot H. Choi, Alexander X. Lozano, Chengyang Yao, Sunil Bodapati, Friso B. Achterberg, Jeesu Kim, Hwan Park, Youngjae Choi, Woo Jin Kim, Jung Ho Yu, Alexander M. Bhatt, Jong Kyun Lee, Ryan Spitler, Shan X. Wang, Sanjiv S. Gambhir, A mountable toilet system for personalized health monitoring via the analysis of excreta, Nat. Biomed. Eng. 2020, 4, 624–635. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-020-0534-9

[4] Seung-min Park, T. Jessie Ge, Daeyoun D. Won, Jong Kyun Lee, Joseph C. Liao, Digital biomarkers in human excreta, Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 2021, 18, 521–522. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-021-00462-0

[5] T. Jessie Ge, Carmel T. Chan, Brian J. Lee, Joseph C. Liao, Seung-min Park, Smart toilets for monitoring COVID-19 surges: passive diagnostics and public health, NPJ Digit. Med. 2022. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-022-00582-0

[6] T. Jessie Ge, Vasiliki Nataly Rahimzadeh, Kevin Mintz, Walter G. Park, Nicole Martinez-Martin, Joseph C. Liao, Seung-min Park, Passive monitoring by smart toilets for precision health, Sci. Transl. Med. 2023. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abk3489

[7] Bieito Fernández Castro, Marian Peña, Enrique Nogueira, Miguel Gilcoto, Esperanza Broullón, Antonio Comesaña, Damien Bouffard, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, Beatriz Mouriño-Carballido, Intense upper ocean mixing due to large aggregations of spawning fish, Nat. Geosci. 2022, 15, 287–292. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-00916-3

[9] Hiromi Nakamura, Homei Miyashita, Augmented gustation using electricity, Proceedings of the 2nd Augmented Human International Conference, March 2011, 34. https://doi.org/10.1145/1959826.1959860

[10] Stanley Milgram, Leonard Bickman, Lawrence Berkowitz, Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 1969, 13, 79–82. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0028070

[11] María José Torres-Prioris, Diana López-Barroso, Estela Càmara, Sol Fittipaldi, Lucas Sedeño, Agustín Ibáñez, Marcelo L. Berthier, Adolfo M. García,  Neurocognitive signatures of phonemic sequencing in expert backward speakers, Sci. Rep. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67551-z

[12] Katy Y. Y. Tam, Cyanea Y. S. Poon, Victoria K. Y. Hui, Christy Y. F. Wong, Vivian W. Y. Kwong, Gigi W. C. Yuen, Christian S. Chan, Boredom begets boredom: An experience sampling study on the impact of teacher boredom on student boredom and motivationBr. J. Educ. Psychol. 2019, 90, 124–137. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12309

[13] Katy Y. Y. Tam, Wijnand A. P. Van Tilburg, Christian S. Chan, Whatever will bore, will bore: The mere anticipation of boredom exacerbates its occurrence in lectures, Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 2022, 93, 198–210. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12549

[14] Chris J. A. Moulin, Nicole Bell, Merita Turunen, Arina Baharin, Akira R. O’Connor, The the the the induction of jamais vu in the laboratory: word alienation and semantic satiation, Memory 2020, 29, 933–942. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2020.1727519


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