Nose hairs, dead spiders and licking rocks are among the winning topics of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize

By | September 15, 2023

How do you feel when you read the same word many, many, many times? Do people have the same number of hairs in both nostrils? Does electrifying your tongue change the taste of the food you’re eating?

The scientists who researched these questions are among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize – an award that has no affiliation with the Nobel Prizes – which aims to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imagination and stimulate interest of people for science, medicine and technology”. .”

Faye Yap, Rice University graduate student with a dead wolf spider to use as necrobotic forceps.  -Brandon Martin/Rice University

Faye Yap, Rice University graduate student with a dead wolf spider to use as necrobotic forceps. -Brandon Martin/Rice University

The 33rd Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place virtually on Thursday evening, with the prizes awarded by “genuine and sincerely confused” Nobel laureates over Zoom. Each winner received a (now defunct) 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note and a pack of “Ig Pseudo Cola”.

Award winners represented 22 countries, including five researchers from the United States, four from the United Kingdom and three from China.

Geologist Jan Zalasiewicz won the coveted chemistry and geology prize for his research into why many scientists like to lick rocks. According to Zalasiewicz, scientists lick rocks because it is easier to distinguish their type when they are wet. The researcher demonstrated this scientific approach by licking a 400-million-year-old trilobite during his online acceptance speech.

The Literature Prize went to a team of researchers who were offered “congratulations and congratulations and congratulations and congratulations and congratulations” for their research on “jamais vu,” the experience of finding a familiar and unfamiliar thing, in repetition of language. The researchers found that about two-thirds of people reported feeling “peculiar” when they repeated the same word about 30 times.

A team from Rice University in Texas won the Mechanical Engineering Prize for reviving dead spiders to use as mechanical grasping tools, capable of grasping objects up to 130% of their weight.

The Medicine Prize was awarded for research into how many nose hairs there are in each nostril of a person. Using the cadavers in their investigations, the winning team found that there are approximately 120 nose hairs in the average person’s left nostril and 112 in the right one. This work will be used to study how the immune systems of people with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss, are affected by a lack of nose hair.

Research on brain activity when a person speaks backwards won the Ig Nobel Prize for Communication, while the Public Health Prize was awarded to urologist Seung-min Park, who invented the Stanford Toilet, a device that analyzes excrement, recognizing users by their “anal print” – an identifier as unique as a fingerprint, apparently.

Japanese scientists Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura won the Nutrition Prize for their research into how electrification can affect the taste of food, finding that it increases users’ perception of saltiness.

American psychologists Stanley Milgram, Leonard Bickman and Lawrence Berkowitz won the Psychology Prize for investigating how members of a crowd looked up if they saw other people doing so, while the Education Prize was awarded for research about how teacher boredom affects student boredom. a classroom.

Finally, the Physics Prize went to a team that studied the impact of anchovies’ sexual activity on ocean water mixing and the global circulation of ocean currents.

The ceremony was accompanied by mini non-operatic songs (plotless songs, sung in an operatic manner) on the water, as well as an annual paper airplane throwing event.

The researchers will have the opportunity to meet at an Ig Nobel Face-to-Face event in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in November. More songs and paper airplanes are planned.

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