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THE SCIENCE HUMOR magazine Annals of Improbable Research satirizes serious research, but also suggests that oddities of research often possess scientific significance. This year’s Ig Nobels display this, though still with tongue in cheek. (And, come to think of it, a research project is lurking here: “Does Buccal Insertion of Lingua Promote Sardonic Response?”)

The Ig Nobel Prize: “First make people laugh, and then make people think.”

Here are tidbits about the 2021 Ig Nobels gleaned from BBC News and The Guardian, both September 9, 2021. 

Rhinoceros Transport. The Ig Nobel for Transportation goes to researchers who studied the effect of dangling rhinos upside down by their feet. (The rhinos’, not the researchers’.)

BBC News writes, “What could seem more daft than hanging 12 rhinos upside down for 10 minutes? But wildlife veterinarian Robin Radcliffe, from Cornell University, and colleagues did exactly this in Namibia because they wanted to know if the health of the animals might be compromised when slung by their legs beneath a helicopter.”

This and the following image from BBC News, September 9, 2021.

In practicing wildlife conservation, specialists move animals from place to place.This is relatively easy for small caged critters, but no mean feat for larger animals. For example, should tranquilized rhinos be helicoptered to new locales slung on their sides, or chest down, or dangled by their feet?

Researchers found that foot-dangling rhinos experienced enhanced heart and lungs function and less muscle damage than with other options. Peter Morkel, one of the researchers, noted, “This has really changed rhino translocation, and even more so elephant translocation. Picking these big animals up by their feet – it’s now accepted.”

The Ig Nobel Prize. BBC News notes, “The winners got a trophy they had to assemble themselves from a PDF print-out and a cash prize in the form of a counterfeit 10 trillion dollar Zimbabwean banknote.” Said Robin Radcliffe, one of the rhino researchers, “We are always looking for funding.” 

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize; some assembly required. Image from

Other 2021 Ig Nobels. BBC News offers the full list of this year’s winners:

Biology Prize: Susanne Schötz, for analysing variations in purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat-human communication.

Ecology Prize: Leila Satari and colleagues, for using genetic analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in wads of discarded chewing gum stuck on pavements in various countries.

Chemistry Prize: Jörg Wicker and colleagues, for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theatres, to test whether the odors produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use, and bad language in the movie the audience is watching.

Economics Prize: Pavlo Blavatskyy, for discovering that the obesity of a country’s politicians may be a good indicator of that country’s corruption.

Medicine Prize: Olcay Cem Bulut and colleagues, for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medicines at improving nasal breathing.

Peace Prize: Ethan Beseris and colleagues, for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.

Physics Prize: Alessandro Corbetta and colleagues, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.

Kinetics Prize: Hisashi Murakami and colleagues, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do sometimes collide with other pedestrians.

Entomology Prize: John Mulrennan, Jr. and colleagues, for their research study “A New Method of Cockroach Control on Submarines.”

Transportation Prize: Robin Radcliffe and colleagues, for determining by experiment whether it is safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside down.

Sex or Decongestants—Your Call. The Medicine Prize warrants comment. The Guardian notes, “Cem Bulut, a professor at the SLK Clinics in Heilbronn in Germany, and colleagues, won the medicine prize for research that suggests sex with orgasm is an effective nasal decongestant.”

The Guardian continues, “Having developed suspicions based on ‘self-observation,’ Bulut recruited a group of co-workers to investigate.The obliging couples were trained with a device to measure their nasal airflow before sex, immediately after sexual climax and at regular time points thereafter. According to the team’s report, sex was as effective at clearing blocked noses, for an hour at least, as commercial decongestants, though Bulut concedes he did not get firm data from everyone. ‘I think some people couldn’t focus on the device,’ he said. 

Yes, well, I believe we understand. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  

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