Friday, September 21, 2018
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Bizarre award explores fun side of science

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Hangzhou | Sunday, 2018 9:45:08 PM IST
When researchers receive arguably the most bizarre science award in China, they often find the trophy more useful than the research findings.

Each winner of the nine categories of the Pineapple Science Award, an annual celebration of the light-hearted side of science, took home a functioning faucet, which the organisers say symbolises the source of endless inspiration, Xinhua news agency reported.

China's equivalent of the Ig Nobel Prizes, the US parody of the Nobel, the Pineapple award is given in fields including psychology, physics and biology. All entries must have been published in recognised academic journals or presented to conferences.

Zhou Xinyue, a professor with Zhejiang University, won this year's psychology prize for finding that dirty banknotes used in transactions were more likely to prompt dishonest business activities.

"Some of my colleagues advised me against receiving this award, saying that if I did so, I would not be considered a serious researcher any more," said a grinning Zhou. "But I totally identify with the spirit of the award, which honours the inner drive of researchers to know the world with a curious mind."

Roger Chen, a sustainable development expert from the University of Texas at Austin, won the physics prize for his discovering that staying at home is more eco-friendly than going out -- a finding likely to give many of the world's lazy people much joy.

Staying indoors cuts the use of transportation and public resources, saving Americans 500 billion kWh of energy annually, according to Chen and his team.

But Chen didn't fly across the Pacific to the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou to receive the award, which "seems fitting for a homebody researcher", said the anchor of the awards ceremony on Friday. (Chen's faucet would be delivered via courier, the organisers said.)

At the whimsical ceremony that featured science-themed rap and a group dance performed by doctoral candidates, researchers building a mathematical model of sperm travelling towards an egg, and the invention of an automatic sock washing-machine were also among the winners.

First held in 2012 to honour imaginative research, the Pineapple award is co-sponsored by Zhejiang Science Museum and Guokr, China's leading popular science website. It aims at arousing public enthusiasm for science among China's younger generation.

Xu Zhenfeng, a primary school student from Hangzhou who dreams of becoming a natural historian, has long been an avid fan of the award.

At a forum participated by award recipients on Saturday, the 11-year-old asked the inventor of a fake alcohol detector, why he chose three particular parameters to determine the genuineness of whiskey. The question was so sophisticated that it immediately drew awe from the audience.

"The question just popped up in my head after the inventor's introduction," Xu said.

--IANS him/vd

( 465 Words)

2018-04-15-21:20:11 (IANS)

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