Upside-down rhinos and sexual decongestants in the 2021 Ig Nobel Prizes

Upside-down rhinos and sexual ...
Impact-protective beards is just one study awarded in this year's Ig Nobel Prizes
Impact-protective beards is just one study awarded in this year's Ig Nobel Prizes
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Impact-protective beards is just one study awarded in this year's Ig Nobel Prizes
Impact-protective beards is just one study awarded in this year's Ig Nobel Prizes

Did humans evolve beards to protect our faces from being punched? Does the level of corruption in a given country correlate with how obese its politicians are? And why are scientists hanging rhinos off helicopters upside-down? The answers to these strange questions constitute just a few of the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes, an annual celebration of the weird side of science.

The Ig Nobels started off in 1991 as a way of celebrating science that first makes you laugh and then makes you think. Now in its 31st year, it continues to find and award the most interesting, incredible and odd science published in recent times.

“We are honoring achievements that make people laugh, then think,” the organizers of the awards explain. “Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; So can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.”

Ten prizes are awarded each year. Categories include research in fields such as biology, chemistry, economics and physics.

Winning the Transportation Prize this year was an incredible study that discovered it is safest to transport tranquilized rhinos upside-down by their feet. Jason Gilchrist, an ecologist involved in relocating black rhinoceroses, says the findings in the study helped inform the safest way to move these giant mammals around.

“It might sound funny to deliberately hang 12 black rhinos upside-down for 10 minutes just to monitor their physiology,” writes Gilchrist, who did not work on the winning Ig Nobel study. "But if nobody does the research, nobody knows whether it’s a safe way to transport an endangered animal.”

Winning the Peace Prize this year was a study from three biologists at the University of Utah investigating the hypothesis that humans evolved beards as a way of protecting vulnerable parts of the face and neck from punches. Using a model of a human facial skeleton the research demonstrated thick hair does significantly absorb an amount of force from a strike.

“It’s not that beards provide a lot of protection,” explains David Carrier, one of the researchers working on the, now award-winning, study. “A really strong punch is always going to be dangerous. What we can say is that they provide some protection to the bones and skin.”

Another highlight was the winner of the Medicine Prize – a study titled “Can Sex Improve Nasal Function?” The research experimentally demonstrated a sexual orgasm is more effective at clearing nasal pathways than a decongestant. Eighteen couples were recruited for the study, which used a rhinometric device to track nasal congestion before and after sexual activity.

Other awarded studies included research finding the median body-mass index of a country’s politicians could be linked with measures of corruption; the development of a new way to control cockroach populations on submarines; and a large body of work from a team of Swedish scientists investigating how cats communicate with humans.

You can watch the full awards ceremony below.

The 31st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony 2021

Source: Improbable Research

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