Upside-down Rhinos and Nose Clearing Orgasms Among Winners at 2021 Ig Nobel Prize Awards


An experiment that hung rhinoceroses upside down to see what effect it had on the animals has been awarded one of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes. Other recipients included teams who studied chewing gum stuck to pavements, and how to control cockroaches onboard submarines.

Cem Bulut, a professor at the SLK Clinics in Heilbronn in Germany. won the medicine prize for research that suggests sex with orgasm is an effective nasal decongestant.

Having developed suspicions based on “self-observation”, Bulut recruited a group of colleagues to investigate before making the discovery.

The spoof awards are not as famous as their “real” counterparts, but they spotlight interesting happenings nonetheless.

The Ig Nobel awards, an annual parody of the prestigious prizes like the Nobels and Pulitzers, is meant to make you laugh first but then think.

Annals of Improbable Research says that this year’s ceremony couldn’t take place at Harvard University in America because they had restrictions due to COVID. The fun happened online instead.

It may seem daft to hang twelve rhinos upside down for ten minutes, but wildlife veterinarian Robin Radcliffe from Cornell University did this in Namibia because he wanted to know if the health of these animals would be compromised when slung by their legs beneath them.

rhino upside down
Photo via the Namibian Ministry of the Environment


Wouldn’t you just love to see a rhino hanging upside down from the helicopter? I bet it’s very comical. Now picture this idea – moving animals with helicopters is not new, but no one had done any basic investigation on how well they cope being in that position!

More precisely, no one had done the basic investigation to check that the tranquilized animals’ heart and lung function coped with upside-down flying, said Radcliffe.

He told BBC News: “Namibia was not the first country to move rhinos upside down with helicopters.”

The animals coped very well. In fact, there was evidence the rhinos did better in this usual position than simply lying chest down or on their side.

The reason for that is when a rhino is on its side you have positional effects of blood flow – lower parts of the lung are getting lots of blood flow while upper part suffers from a lack thereof.

The Ig Nobels are given out every year during the ceremony, and recognize those who make significant scientific contributions to “honor the unusual.”

The winners got their trophy as printed from Adobe Acrobat PDF. They also received cash prizes in fake dollar bills that were worth 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars each.

“When I first heard about the Ig Nobel, I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad,” Radcliffe said about the prize.

“But I think that message that ‘it makes you laugh and then think’ – this is what it’s about for us. More and more people should understand what efforts are going on to try to help save these amazing animals that live here on Planet Earth with us.”

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