It’s safer to carry a rhino on its back, and beards could be an evolution designed to help protect men’s faces from punches, according to scientific studies that won Ig Nobel prizes on Thursday.
It is an annual event of unusual achievements in science and the humanities whose goal is to make you laugh and then think. Ig Nobel are presented by Nobel Prize winners and are usually presented at the Sanders Theater at Harvard University. 2021 is the second year that these parodic awards have been held online.
This year, the winners received a paper trophy for them to assemble themselves and a 10 trillion Zimbabwe dollar bill – a now-defunct and extremely low-value coin – in keeping with the fun nature of these satirical awards. A joint meditation on how bridges bring people together was sandwiched between the honorees’ presentations.
“What I love about veterinarians who treat wild animals is that they have to be well planted and think outside the box,” said Robin Radcliffe, one of the authors of the African study who concluded that rhinos can be moved more safely if they are placed with their backs against the ground. “You have to be a genius and very creative … and sometimes even a little crazy to move rhinos like that.”
The finding that people could have started growing beards to cushion the impact of blows received the peace prize. Chewing gum, orgasms and the meows of cats were other award-winning themes at the Ig Nobel.
Swedish Susanne Schotz won the biology award for analyzing variations of the “purrs, chirps, chatters, trills, murmurs, meows, whines, squeaks, hisses, howls, growls and other modes of communication between cats and humans”, and even made a demonstration of some of the sounds you studied.
The ecology award went to a group of scientists who study bacteria in chewing gum stuck to pavements around the world, and the medicine award went to research that demonstrated that orgasms are effective in decongesting the nose.
Marc Abrahams, master of ceremonies and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, which produces the event, closed the show by wishing attendees that “if you haven’t won an Ig Nobel prize this year, and especially if you did win it, better luck next year. “