A summary of the 2023 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony
Every September, the Ig Nobel Prize is given to 10 of the funniest, most out-of-pocket, but still legitimate scientific research papers published. The research is scientifically sound, but the topic and conclusions derived are more than a bit bizarre and, as a consequence, hilarious to those both intimately familiar with the research field and those who just come along for the adventure. This year was the 33rd such ceremony, but, continuing the format that was instituted during the pandemic, the ceremony was conducted via webcast.
The 10 categories are as follows: Chemistry/Geology, Literature, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine, Communication, Public Health, Nutrition, Education, Psychology, and Physics.
Of particular interest might be the research that won the education prize “for methodically studying the boredom of teachers and students.” These investigations into teacher and student boredom in class were conducted over two papers, published in 2020 and 2023, respectively. Essentially, when teachers taught the same material multiple times and became less interested in it themselves, students picked up on this sentiment and also became more bored. Additionally, when students expected to become bored, before a class or lecture even started, they tended to get more bored than those who did not come in with those expectations.
Another interesting piece of research, this one in the literature category, was that staring at a word for long periods of time, even a word that is familiar or well-known to you, can make you suddenly doubt whether you understand the word or whether it’s just an unfamiliar jumble of letters. They dubbed this phenomenon jamais vu, which they described “as the opposite of deja vu — finding subjectively unfamiliar something that we know to be familiar.” In this case, even a familiar word can start to feel strange, distorted, and unfamiliar to someone who looks at it for long periods of time.
While the Ig Nobel prize is a play on the Nobel Prize and the word “ignoble,” the sentiment of the award remains to validate “achievements that first make people laugh then make them think.” Nobel Prize laureate Andre Geim, who won the Nobel in 2010, won an Ig Nobel a decade prior for “the magnetic levitation of a frog,” which certainly checked both of these boxes.