Studies on airborne rhinos, hissing cats get Ig Nobels prize
Annual honour for unusual accomplishments in science and the humanities aims to make people laugh and then think.
Robin Radcliffe, one of the authors of the African study that concluded rhinoceroses are more safely transported on their backs, was among the recipients this year [Green Renaissance/World Wildlife Fund]
10 Sep 2021
It is safer to transport rhinoceros in the air when they are upside down, and you can determine a country’s level of corruption by measuring the obesity levels of its politicians, according to scientific studies that have won Ig Nobel prizes.
A study about the modes of cat and human communication, including purring, meowing and hissing was also cited in the Biology category, which is among some of the findings given awards online on Thursday night.
An annual honour for unusual accomplishments in science and the humanities, the Ig Nobles professed aim is to make people laugh and then think.
The awards are presented by Nobel laureates and are usually held at Harvard University, but this year marked the second that the spoof awards had been held online.
Each winner was given a paper trophy to assemble themselves and a counterfeit Zimbabwean $10 trillion note, in line with the light-hearted nature of the prize.
A choral meditation on how bridges bring people together was interspersed between the presentations.
“The thing I love about wildlife veterinarians is you guys have to really think on your feet and think outside the box,” said Robin Radcliffe, one of the authors of the African study that concluded rhinoceroses are more safely transported on their backs.
“You have to be a genius and creative and sometimes even a little bit crazy to move rhinos this way.”
The findings that people may have begun growing beards to help cushion the impact of blows was accorded the peace prize.
Chewing gum and orgasms as effective decongestants were some of the other topics of research that were honoured, as well as an experiment to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.
A study about variations of cat–human communication including hissing and meowing was cited in the field of biology [File: Said Khatib/AFP]
Susanne Schotz from Sweden won the biology prize for analysing variations in “purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat–human communication” and even demonstrated some of the noises she had studied.
Marc Abrahams, the master of ceremonies and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, which produces the event, had the last word after the show.
“If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize this year, and especially if you did, better luck next year,” he said.
In the history of the award, Andre Geim is the only Ig Nobel Prize winner who went on to become a Nobel Prize laureate.
Geim was awarded a 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for creating graphene. A decade before that, he received the 2000 Ig Nobel for using magnets to levitate a frog.