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Ig Nobel Prizes: Nose-clearing orgasm study takes top prize

September 10, 2021

The Ig Nobel awards were an online affair this year, lauding research on beards that protect your face from punches, forms of cat-human communication, and the idea that sex can help clear your sinuses — if done well.

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A woman with a cold blowing her nose with a tissue, in London
Trying to clear those pipes? A niche and now prize-winning study argued that an orgasm could be the solutionImage: picture-alliance

Science is not just for the serious. The celebrated and financially lucrative Nobel Prize Awards will be here next month — but already released are the Ig Nobel Prizes, which acknowledge offbeat, quirky and weird research that often gets overlooked.

This year, the prize for medicine went to Germany-based Olcay Cem Bulut and his group of researchers, who found that sex with an orgasm can help decongest your nose. The study tested 18 couples, and found improved breathing for up to 60 minutes after orgasm. 

Protective beards and upside-down rhinos

The "peace" category was won by the University of Utah's Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway and David Carrier, who discovered that beards serve the function of protecting human faces, and are not just for aesthetics. They used a fiber epoxy composite to simulate human bone, and sheep skin as a substitute for human skin, while fleece replaced beard. 

"If the same is true for human facial hair, then having a full beard may help protect vulnerable regions of the facial skeleton from damaging strikes, such as the jaw," recent graduate Beseris said. 

Closeup of well-groomed hipster beard
Beards: Not just for looks, apparentlyImage: Colourbox/E. Marongiu

Another striking winner was wildlife veterinarian Robin Radcliffe, whose research showed that airlifting rhinos upside down by their legs was much better for their health than transporting them on their side. "The thing I love about wildlife veterinarians is you guys have to really think on your feet and think outside the box," he said. 

Black rhino being transported by helicopter to an awaiting land vehicle. Eastern Cape, South Africa, file photo from 2011.
It might look like an unpleasant way to travel, but airlifting tranquilized rhinos with their heads nearest the ground like this is thought to be less harmful than other positionsImage: ZUMA Wire/imago images

Scientists who studied bacteria in chewing gum stuck to the pavement, and cockroach controlling techniques on submarines also bagged awards. The biology prize winner was Susanne Schötz, author of "The Secret Language of Cats," who studied "purring, chirping, chattering, trilling, tweedling, murmuring, meowing, moaning, squeaking, hissing, yowling, howling, growling" and other cat-human communication.

The ceremony, which is usually housed at the Sanders theater at Harvard University, was an online affair this time. Winners received a paper trophy to assemble themselves, and a counterfeit Zimbabwean $10 trillion note. 

Marc Abrahams, master of ceremonies and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, which organizes the event, said: "If you didn't win an Ig Nobel prize this year, and especially if you did, better luck next year."

tg/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters)