How sex can unblock a stuffy nose and other notable Ig Nobel scientific discoveries

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Professor David Carrier investigated how much protection is provided by beards against punches. (Credit: University of Utah)
Professor David Carrier investigated how much protection is provided by beards against punches. (Credit: University of Utah)

Could beards soften a punch? Should rhinos be transported hanging upside down? Might a bit of bedroom action be the solution for a stuffy nose? This may not be the kind of thing you and I think of as we go about our daily business but rest assured some of the world’s finest thinkers have applied their minds to these issues.

Now they’re being awarded for it at this year’s Ig Nobel ceremony. The satiric prize, presented by science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, has been awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate quirky or trivial achievements in scientific research. The Ig Nobles “honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”.

Its name is a nod to the similarly named but slightly more prestigious counterpart, the Nobel Prize. The ceremony is traditionally held in a theatre at Harvard University in the US, but pandemic concerns saw it shifting online this year. In keeping with tradition, Nobel Prize laureates, including Frances Arnold (chemistry, 2018), Carl Weiman (physics, 2001) and Eric Maskin (economics, 2007), were on hand to present this year’s 10 Ig Nobels to scientists, economists, doctors and mathematicians from 24 countries on six continents.

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