Dead spider claws and ‘anal-print’ toilets: 2023’s Ig Nobels

The Ig Nobel prizes, awarded for amusing and thought-provoking scientific achievements, showcased the quirky side of science in its 23rd edition. The annual awards ceremony, which honors accomplishments that both amuse and stimulate thought, was broadcast online with real Nobel laureates, some donning comical headwear, presenting the prizes alongside a $10 trillion bill from Zimbabwe, mostly worthless due to inflation.

Here are this year’s 10 Ig Nobel winners, recognized by the humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research:

  1. Rock Lickers: Geologist Jan Zalasiewicz from the University of Leicester received the chemistry and geology Ig Nobel for explaining why some scientists have a penchant for tasting rocks, a skill that was once used to identify rocks by 18th-century geologists.
  2. Repeating a Word to Meaninglessness: The literature Ig Nobel went to an international team of researchers for investigating the sensations people experience when repeating a word multiple times, leading to a sense of unfamiliarity called “jamais vu.”
  3. Reanimated Spider Claw Machine: The mechanical engineering prize was awarded to researchers from Rice University in Texas for reanimating deceased wolf spiders and using them as mechanical gripping tools, akin to the claw machines found in arcades.
  4. Toilet that Scans ‘Anal-Prints’: Seung-min Park of Stanford University secured the public health prize for inventing a toilet that can rapidly analyze human waste, complete with an “anal-print” sensor akin to fingerprint identification.
  5. Backwards Talkers: The communication prize recognized individuals skilled in speaking backward, with the award recipients accepting their honor by speaking in reverse.
  6. Cadaver Nose Hair: The medicine Ig Nobel was awarded to researchers who explored whether there is an equal number of hairs in both nostrils using cadavers, revealing variations but an average of 120 nose hairs in the left nostril and 112 in the right.
  7. Electric Taste: Japan’s Hiromi Nakamura and Homei Miyashita received the nutrition prize for inventing electrified chopsticks and straws that make food and drinks taste saltier.
  8. Boring into Boring: The education prize went to researchers who studied how teachers appearing bored can similarly bore their students, emphasizing the influence of a teacher’s engagement on student interest.
  9. Looking Up: The psychology prize recognized US researchers for experiments that observed how people on a city street would react if they saw strangers looking up; the more people who looked up, the more passers-by joined in.
  10. Anchovy Sex: The physics Ig Nobel was awarded to researchers who measured how the sexual activity of anchovies affects ocean-water mixing, shedding light on a somewhat peculiar scientific inquiry.

While the Ig Nobel prizes celebrate unconventional and humorous aspects of science, the genuine Nobel prizes are set to be announced in the coming month.

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