CHINA Bizarre science honors in Zhejiang reward curiosity


Bizarre science honors in Zhejiang reward curiosity

By YIN XIAOSHENG,ZHU HAN and WANG JUNLU in Hangzhou | China Daily

09:32, October 23, 2020

The ceremony for the 9th Pineapple Award is held in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Sunday night. The award is dedicated to researchers who conduct amusing and amazing scientific experiments. (Photo: Xinhua)

"Which is more disgusting, finding a dead rat in the kitchen or being forced to sit next to someone smelly with greasy hair on the subway?"

That whimsical question won Val Curtis and Micheal de Barra-scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Brunel University London-the Pineapple Award for biology given in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Sunday night.

The two scientists created a "nausea scale" through which participants were asked to rate 72 items on a scale of 0 to 100.

"Our analysis shows there is a clear correlation between distasteful things and the risk of getting infected. This work would play a key role in health policy and is backed by a strong theory of evolutionary biology," de Barra said.

China's equivalent of the Ig Nobel Prizes-the United States' parody of the Nobel-the Pineapple Award honors the spirit of curiosity behind amusing and amazing experiments. They are given in fields including psychology, physics and biology. All entries must have been published in recognized academic journals or presented at conferences.

The prizewinning studies may seem funny, but they involve serious scientific pursuits.

An international team of scientists from Norway, the Netherlands and Spain found urea helps set concrete. Therefore, the most economical way to build a base on the moon is to use lunar materials and add urine to solidify cement. The research won the fantasy prize category.

"We tried to make a building material with ingredients that could be found on the moon, and I'm glad we succeeded. There is very little water on the moon, and urea is a good plasticizer hiding in the human body," said professor Anna-Lena Kjoniksen of Ostfold University College in Norway.

David Carrier, a biologist at the University of Utah in the US, was among those who took inspiration from Darwin's theory of evolution and won the physics prize for determining that "men with beards are more resistant to beating".

"Our results show beards are not only a way of showing attractiveness, but providing effective protection, weakening blunt strikes and spreading shocks, so men's long beards are more likely to be the result of natural selection," Carrier said.

Researchers from the Burnet Institute in Australia won the mathematics prize for exploring "the mystery of the disappearing cycle of office teaspoons". Researchers from McGill University in Canada won the psychology prize for their "hygienic approach to breaking up couples".

The Pineapple Award, founded in 2012, have previously been given to dozens of funny studies like "counting money can reduce pain", "how much urine is in a pool", and "why mosquitoes don't get killed by raindrops".

"Being interesting is one of the most important criteria for a Pineapple science prize, but only if the winners are real scientists whose research has been published in a regular journal or at an academic conference," said Li Ruihong, founder of the award. "This award wants to send a message that science is not just about high-tech projects."

Zhou Xinyue, a professor at Zhejiang University, said: "I appreciate the spirit behind this award. Curiosity and passion are the driving forces behind a lot of research."

David G. Evans, a professor at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology and presenter of this year's award, said, "Doing science requires innovation and communicating science also requires innovation, and I think the Pineapple Award is a good way of stimulating young people's interest in science."

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