The 33rd Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Celebrates Unusual and Quirky Science
The 33rd Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, held virtually on September 14, showcased a range of peculiar and thought-provoking scientific research. The Ig Nobel Prizes recognize studies that make people both “LAUGH and THINK.” This year, the University of Leicester’s Jan Zalasiewicz emerged as a frontrunner, winning both the Chemistry and Geology Prizes for his investigation into the strange habit of scientists licking rocks.
Zalasiewicz’s essay titled “Eating Fossils” sheds light on the surprising benefits of wetting a rock’s surface with a lick. It turns out that this simple act can help highlight fossil and mineral textures, bypassing the complexities of a dry rock surface. Zalasiewicz’s findings offer an intriguing explanation for why scientists engage in this peculiar behavior.
On the innovative side, Stanford University urologist Seung-min Park was awarded the public health prize for his invention of the “Stanford toilet.” This intelligent toilet has the ability to assess a user’s health by carefully examining their waste. From performing dipstick tests to detect infections and diabetes to utilizing a computer vision system to measure urine, the Stanford toilet offers a comprehensive health assessment. Additionally, it can even recognize users by their unique “analprint,” providing an additional layer of personalization and identification.
The literary award went to a team exploring the phenomenon of jamais vu, which is the feeling of unfamiliarity with something that should be familiar. The researchers from the University of St. Andrews induced this sensation in a laboratory setting by having subjects repeat a single word multiple times until it lost its recognizable meaning. This exploration of the puzzling phenomenon of jamais vu may shed light on cognitive processes and memory encoding.
Other notable studies recognized at the ceremony included an investigation into the counting of nostril hairs to determine if there are an equal number in each nostril, and an exploration of reanimating dead spiders as mechanical tools, known as “necrobotics.” These studies have implications for alopecia patients and advancements in robotics, respectively.
The Ig Nobel Prizes serve as a reminder that seemingly simple and unconventional questions can lead to profound discoveries. All winners received a humorous fake $10 trillion Zimbabwean bill and a 3D trophy diagram. The founder of the awards, Marc Abrahams, encouraged participating scientists by saying, “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel Prize tonight – and especially if you did – better luck next year.”
– Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony 2023
– University of Leicester
– Stanford University
– University of St. Andrews
– University of California, Irvine
– Rice University