The Ig Nobel Prizes: Celebrating Humorous and Thought-Provoking Research

The Ig Nobel Prize, a lighthearted counterpart to the prestigious Nobel Prizes, celebrates research that elicits laughter and subsequent contemplation. In its 33rd First Annual ceremony, a water-themed event, ten Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded in various categories. The ceremony, as former Nobel Prize winner Amanda Palmer describes, is a comedic and nerdy evening filled with entertaining speeches, paper airplane throwing, mini operas, and intellectual lectures compressed into 24 seconds. Notably, each winner received their Ig Nobel Prize in the form of a printable PDF document and a supersized Zimbabwean ten trillion dollar bill, symbolizing the resolution of research funding problems.

Some of the prizes were directly related to water, such as Jan Zalasiewicz’s chemistry and geology prize for explaining why scientists enjoy licking rocks. Zalasiewicz demonstrated that wetting the surface of a rock enhances the texture’s visibility. The nutrition prize went to Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura for their experiments on how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws alter the taste of food. They found that electrical stimulation can enhance the perception of taste beyond the capabilities of the human tongue.

The physics prize was awarded for measuring the impact of anchovies’ sexual activity on ocean-water mixing. Contrary to previous beliefs, it was discovered that anchovies play a significant role in the vertical mixing of water layers in coastal regions. These findings challenge the long-standing assumption that fish are too small to influence oceanic water dynamics.

Science communication plays a vital role in the dissemination and understanding of novel research. At a previous Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, the team behind the awards received the Heinz Oberhummer award for their 30-year effort in combating fake news through a combination of science, education, and humor. Successful science communication, as exemplified by the Ig Nobel Prizes, should engage the audience through its entertainment value while still conveying noteworthy scientific insights.

In conclusion, the Ig Nobel Prizes act as a platform for recognizing comical yet impactful scientific research. The combination of humor and intellectual substance encourages individuals to laugh before engaging in thought-provoking reflections. Regardless of personal taste, the Ig Nobel Prizes succeed in captivating their audience and challenging conventional thinking.


– Nakamura, H. & Miyashita, H. In Proceedings of the 2nd Augmented Human International Conference article no. 34 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2011).

– Fernández Castro, B. et al. Nat. Geosci. 15, 287–292 (2022).