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The Weirdest Science Is Once Again Lauded

The Ig Nobel peace prize went to a team that looked at how beards evolved
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2021 7:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – This year's Ig Nobel prizes were handed out virtually for the second year in a row—but the science involved was as delightfully weird as ever. Winners of the prizes for unusual research, which are usually awarded at a Harvard ceremony, included a team that determined transporting rhinos hanging upside down from a helicopter, as happens in conservation work, does not harm the animals, BBC reports. The team, which used a crane to hang a dozen rhinos in Namibia upside down for 10 minutes each, was awarded the transportation prize. They won a trophy they had to assemble themselves from a printout and a counterfeit $10 trillion Zimbabwean banknote. More:

  • A peace prize for beard research. The Ig Nobel peace prize went to University of Utah researchers who tested the hypothesis that men evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face, the Guardian reports. After dropping weights on a fiber epoxy composite that resembled bone, covered in sheared and unsheared sheepskin, they concluded that hairy skin absorbs more energy, providing some protection.

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  • Cat-human communication. Swedish scientist Suzanne Schotz won the biology prize for her study of "purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling, and other modes of cat–human communication," per the Ig Nobel website.
  • The obesity-corruption link. A professor at the Montpellier School of Business in France won the economics prize for research on post-Soviet states that found the most corrupt countries had the most obese politicians, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation reports.

  • Discarded gum is definitely gross. The ecology prize went to Spanish researchers who confirmed that discarded gum stuck to sidewalks for months was teeming with bacteria, reports the AP. Their paper said the findings had implications for "forensics, contagious disease control, or bioremediation of wasted chewing gum residue."
  • Sex as a nasal decongestant. Other winners included a team that investigated whether changes in odors in a movie theater indicates how violent or scary or movie is, a 1971 study of cockroach control in submarines—and an investigation of whether sex is an effective nasal decongestant, which won the medicine prize. German researcher Cem Bulut, who gave volunteer couples a device to measure nasal airflow before sex and immediately after climax, said sex with orgasm appears to be at least as effective as commercial decongestants, but "some people couldn’t focus on the device," per the Guardian.
(Last year's laureates included an anthropologist who tested a story about a knife made from frozen feces.)

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