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The Ig Nobel Prize 2023

The 2023 Ig Nobel Prizes celebrates for example backward reading and counting nostril hairs.

The 2023 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded at the 33rd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, September 14, 2023. The Prizes honor achievements that make people laugh, then think, and they are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Ig Nobel is a play on the name Nobel and the word ignoble, which means inferior and undignified. The prize was first awarded in 1991 to honor research of the more unusual and creative kind. It is now awarded annually in ten different categories, including those of the official Nobel Prize.

A gaggle of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates handed the Ig Nobel Prizes to the new Ig Nobel winners. This year’s prize presenters were Frances Arnold (chemistry, 2018), Marty Chalfie (chemistry 2008), Peter Doherty (physiology or medicine 1996), Esther Duflo (economics 2019), Jerry Friedman (physics 1990), Wolfgang Ketterle (physics, 2001), Eric Maskin (economics 2007), Ardem Patapoutian (physiology or medicine, 2021), Al Roth (economics 2012), Rich Roberts (physiology or medicine 1993) and Barry Sharpless (chemistry 2001 and chemistry 2022).

NLS has chosen to highlight 4 of them, see below. To learn more and read about all the prizes, visit

Whether there is an equal number of hairs in each of a person’s two nostrils

Christine Pham, Bobak Hedayati, Kiana Hashemi, Ella Csuka, Tiana Mamaghani, Margit Juhasz, Jamie Wikenheiser, and Natasha Mesinkovska (USA, Canada, Macedonia, Iran, Vietnam) received the Medicine prize for using cadavers to explore whether there is an equal number of hairs in each of a person’s two nostrils.

Mental activities of people who are expert at speaking backward

María José Torres-Prioris, Diana López-Barroso, Estela Càmara, Sol Fittipaldi, Lucas Sedeño, Agustín Ibáñez, Marcelo Berthier, and Adolfo García (Argentina, Spain, Colombia, Chile, China, USA) received the Communication prize for studying the mental activities of people who are expert at speaking backward.

How electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food

Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura (Japan) received the Nutrition prize for experiments to determine how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food.


An employee of Kirin Holdings demonstrates chopsticks that can enhance food taste using an electrical stimulation waveform that was jointly developed by the company and Meiji University’s School of Science and Technology Prof. Homei Miyashita, in Tokyo in April 2022. Source/Credit: Reuters/The Japan Times

The Stanford Toilet

Seung-min Park (South Korea, USA) received the Public Health prize 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.

The second act

A new, additional event of the Ig Nobel prize will take place one month after the ceremony, October 14, 2023. At the Ig Nobel Face-to-Face Ig Nobel Prize winners and other researchers will ask each other questions about their work. There will also be music and other good stuff. This new event will happen in Sanders Theatre, at Harvard University, on Thursday evening, October 14, 2023.


Featured illustration: Improbable Research