'Genius': Story behind bizarre upside-down photo

·News and Video Producer

Experimental research that examined the effects of flying the black rhinoceros upside down has been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for transportation.

During a colourful award ceremony, scientists from across the globe were celebrated for accomplishments that make people laugh at first, but then think.

An author of the winning research, Cornell University's Robin Radcliffe, said the veterinarians who designed the rhinoceros experiment had thought "outside the box".

Left - A rhino being transported upside down. Right -  A stock image of a rhino standing on a road
Transporting black rhinos upside down was found to be less stressful. Source: Cornell University / Getty

With rhinos often living in remote locations, animal translocation in Namibia had increasingly been reliant on helicopter transport. 

What the researchers concluded after studying 12 individuals is that it is actually less stressful for the animals to be carried upside down once tranquillised, rather than leaving them to recline on their side. 

“You have to be a genius and creative and sometimes even a little bit crazy to move rhinos this way,” Mr Radcliffe said upon receiving his award.

What you may not know about black rhinoceros

  • They are the smallest of Africa's two endemic rhinoceros species

  • Hunting between 1960 and 1995 drove their populations down by 98 per cent 

  • Today, numbers are increasing, but they are still listed as critically endangered

  • In 2014, a US hunter paid US $350,000 to shoot a black rhinoceros in Namibia

Wild and wonderful winners honoured with prizes

While usually held at Harvard University and presented by genuine Nobel laureates, this year the Ig Nobel Prize went virtual for a second year running due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The biology prize was awarded to Sweden’s Susanne Schotz for her work at Lund University to better understand modes of communication between cats and humans.

An elderly lady sitting at the table and talking to a cat.
The biology prize went to research into cat to human communication. Source: Getty / File

On receiving her paper certificate and satirical Zimbabwean $10 trillion note, Ms Schotz, who was wearing a colourful top and cat ears, said she was "speechless".

Her research examined a long list of sounds including purring, chirping, yowling, howling and growling made by four domestic cats.

A study into the bacteria found in discarded chewing gum on pavements across various countries took out the ecology category, while the economics prize went to research that found a correlation between obesity and corruption in politics.

Ig Nobel Prize winners at a glance

  • Biology - Human and cat communication

  • Chemistry - How audiences broadcast chemicals as they respond emotionally to films

  • Economics - Link between obesity and corruption in politics

  • Medicine - The power of orgasms to improve nasal breathing

  • Peace - Whether humans evolved beards to absorb the energy of punches to the face

  • Biology - Understanding the bacteria in discarded chewing gum

  • Transportation - Improving rhinoceros transportation

  • Physics - Why pedestrians don't collide with each other

  • Kinetics - Why pedestrians do collide with each other

  • Entomology - Controlling cockroaches on submarines

with Reuters

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