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Necrobotics, Electrified Chopsticks and Other Winners of the 2023 Annual Ig Nobel Awards

You might be tempted to lump the Ig Nobel Awards in with the Darwin Awards as simply a celebration of human stupidity – but it’s much more. Back in 1991 they were created to honor “achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think.” The award ceremony has the memorably brilliant requirement that experts “explain their work twice: once in 24 seconds and the second in just seven words.” The entire program feels like both a parody of the Nobel Prize, and a celebration of human curiosity. This year’s award recipients are a quirky bunch. 

In mechanical engineering, scientists experimenting with “necrobotics” found a way to reanimate dead spiders to turn them into claw-like gripping devices. Try not having nightmares after seeing the animated GIF of this one. Other award recipients included a team trying to augment the flavor of food by electrifying chopsticks, paleontologists who actively lick rocks, analyzing urine streams by sound (known as “sonouroflowmetry“), measuring the effect of the sexual activity of anchovies on ocean-water, and learning about brain processing by studying a town in Spain where residents are proficient at speaking backwards (word inversion).

Reading all these winners is like taking a tour behind the scenes of the quirky things some people choose to pay attention to. These are non-obvious ideas and the world needs more of them. So congrats to all the Ig Nobel Prize winners. We all celebrate your unique contributions to the world of science. Except that spider necrobotics team. I’m having a hard time unseeing that one.

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