What happens when a person walks around carrying a cup of coffee? A Russian scientist has won an Ig Nobel Prize for finding the answer. The prizes are a parody of the real Nobel Prizes, and are awarded “to make people laugh, and then think”.
Rouslan Krechetnikov, a Mechanical Engineering professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his student Hans Mayer were praised for their research into the dynamics of liquid-sloshing.
In simple terms, the challenge was to find out what happens when you start walking around with your cup of coffee. It turned out that the holder will unconsciously adjust their rhythm of walking to the frequency of vibration of the liquid. According to the scientists, coffee gets spilled between the seventh and tenth step.
“While it was obvious to us that the coffee sloshing in a cup should be excited by walking, we could not anticipate that we could quantify coffee spilling,” Krechetnikov was quoted as saying.
The young researcher who earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology will take home the Fluid Dynamics Prize.
Krechetnikov is not the only Russian scientist who picked up the Ig Nobel Prize.
Igor Petrov, an electrical engineer by trade, and his colleagues at the SKN Company have won the Peace prize for converting old military explosives into Nano diamonds that can later be used as light beacons for cancer treatment.
Petrov said he had been working on the project for twenty years without expecting to reap a reward.
This time around the Psychology Prize went to a group of researchers, one of them flying the flag for Russia, Tulio Guadalupe. The title of the study – “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller” – spoke for itself.
The Anatomy Prize went to Dutch and US researchers for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photos of their rear ends.
French scientists took home the Medicine Prize for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
The Literature Prize was awarded to the US Government Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
A group of researchers from America and the U.K won the Physics Prize for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.
The Neuroscience Prize went to a group of American researchers for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
Japanese researches picked up the Acoustics prize for creating the so called SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person's speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.
The annual prizes are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as an ironic ‘step-brother’ to the Nobel prizes, due to be announced next month.
“Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; so can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity,” the organizers of the Ig Nobel Prize say.
Former winners of the real Nobels hand out the Ig Nobel awards at a gala ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusetts.