Ig Nobel Prizes 2021

If you are one of those people who believe that prizes shouldn’t be handed out for participation, this article maybe isn’t for you.

Or maybe, if you are open minded enough, it could be the perfect case study as to why not all awards and medals have to go to the best of the best, all of the time.

In the world of scientific research your average Joe doesn’t have much chance of ever winning a Nobel Prize – does this mean their work isn’t valuable?

No, of course it doesn’t!

Not everyone can dedicate their life to researching black holes in galaxies far away, or brokering peace between warring nations. The people that do are rightly celebrated – but if awards were only for the absolute pinnacle of human-achievement then 99.99% of people excluded immediately.

What a sad world that would be to live in…

What are the Ig Nobel Prizes?

The Ig Nobel Prizes were set up to honour those people and projects that make people laugh, and then think. The prizes are handed out for the weird, the imaginative, the unusual – anything that can spur people’s interest in science, medicine or technology.

Usually, the ceremony is held every September as a gala-type event in Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. Unfortunately, in a Covid blighted world this isn’t really possible so the entire event was streamed online.

It is possible to watch the full event for free by clicking here.

Previous ceremonies have had the prizes presented to recipients by Nobel Laureates in front of the massed 1100 spectators. Thousands more watch along online.

How many prizes are there?

There are ten new Ig prize winners introduced, with each winner (or winning team) doing something that makes people laugh and then think. The prizes for the 2021 ceremony were handed out by previous genuine Nobel laureates.

The list of presenters for 2021 is as follows:

  • Rich Roberts (Physiology/Medicine, 1993)
  • Frances Arnold (Chemistry, 2018)
  • Marty Chalfie (Chemistry, 2008)
  • Eric Maskin (Economics, 2007)
  • Barry Sharpless (Chemistry, 2001)
  • Robert Lefkowitz (Chemistry, 2012)
  • Carl Weiman (Physics, 2001)
  • Eric Cornell (Physics, 2001)
  • Jerome Friedman (Physics, 1990)

An example of absurdity – Rotated Rhinos

This winner is absolutely a personal favourite.

Robin Radcliffe, Mark Jago, Peter Morkel, Estelle Morkel, Pierre du Preez, Piet Beytell, Birgit Kotting, Bakker Manuel, Jan Hendrik du Preez, Michele Miller, Julia Felippe, Stephen Parry, and Robin Gleed won the transport prize for their research.

The team won the prize for their project that determined it was much safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside down. 1


If you would like to read more about the project itself and the methodology behind it – you can do so by Clicking Here.

The Winners – Full List


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.


Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú, and Manuel Porcar, 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.


Jörg Wicker, Nicolas Krauter, Bettina Derstroff, Christof Stönner, Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, Achim Edtbauer, Jochen Wulf, Thomas Klüpfel, Stefan Kramer, and Jonathan Williams, for chemically analysing the air inside movie theatres, to test whether the odours produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behaviour, drug use, and bad language in the movie the audience is watching.


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


Olcay Cem Bulut, Dare Oladokun, Burkard Lippert, and Ralph Hohenberger, for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medicines at improving nasal breathing.


Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway, and David Carrier, for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.


Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi, and Federico Toschi, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.


Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama, and Katsuhiro Nishinari, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do sometimes collide with other pedestrians.


John Mulrennan, Jr., Roger Grothaus, Charles Hammond, and Jay Lamdin, for their research study “A New Method of Cockroach Control on Submarines”.


Robin Radcliffe, Mark Jago, Peter Morkel, Estelle Morkel, Pierre du Preez, Piet Beytell, Birgit Kotting, Bakker Manuel, Jan Hendrik du Preez, Michele Miller, Julia Felippe, Stephen Parry, and Robin Gleed, for determining by experiment whether it is safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside-down.


  1. Robin W. Radcliffe, Mark Jago, Peter vdB Morkel, Estelle Morkel, Pierre du Preez, Piet Beytell, Birgit Kotting, Bakker Manuel, Jan Hendrik du Preez, Michele A. Miller, Julia Felippe, Stephen A. Parry, and Robin D. Gleed “THE PULMONARY AND METABOLIC EFFECTS OF SUSPENSION BY THE FEET COMPARED WITH LATERAL RECUMBENCY IN IMMOBILIZED BLACK RHINOCEROSES (DICEROS BICORNIS) CAPTURED BY AERIAL DARTING,” Journal of Wildlife Diseases 57(2), 357-367, (25 March 2021).