Pineapple whacky science awards are just funny on the surface

Updated: 2015-04-14 06:18

By Chris Davis(China Daily USA)

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After painstaking number crunching and deep calculation, Huang Jinzi, a PhD candidate at Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, has determined that it takes 1,000 licks to finish off a lollipop that's 1 centimeter in diameter.

Huang said he and his team had worked up a mathematical model tracking the dissolution rate of matter in pharmacology, chemistry and nature, and sugar candy was the most readily available substance to test the theory on.Pineapple whacky science awards are just funny on the surface

For licking the lollipop conundrum, Huang won one of this year's Pineapple Science Awards, a parody of the US-based Ig Nobel Awards (which in turn are a parody of the Nobel Prize) that single out some of the seemingly goofy things that egghead researchers pursue to keep grant money rolling in. But it's not all as silly as it may seem.

"It was actually a very serious and solemn mathematics study," Huang told Xinhua. "But I'm happy about winning this prize, as it has made more people interested in hydromechanics."

Hard to spoil all the fun of a four-year-old awards program that in the past has honored a robot controlled by a monkey's brain or a combination nose-plug, mucus cup for people who don't like to blow their nose.

Another prize this year went to an attempt to answer the burning question: How is it a mosquito in heavy rain can navigate a perfect four-point landing on a person's neck while getting pummeled by raindrops that are each 50 times its own weight?

David Hu and his colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology spent years studying collisions between mosquitoes and raindrops with high-speed cameras and determined that the mosquito is not only protected by a strong armor of exoskeleton but also can use a falling rain drop to engineer a dive-bomb maneuver.

"The prize is to stimulate people's curiosity and to invite the public to get involved and understand science," said Li Ruihong, curator of the Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum in Hangzhou, where the awards were presented.

"The Pineapple Science Prize is a salute to curiosity. It is the curiosity which lead the humans to one scientific research and another, and it is also the curiosity which takes the mankind to survive till today," said Wang Yami, executive organizer of the prize from co-sponsor, China's premiere popular science website.

"Imagination is encouraged here, as it is not only a research award. The Imagination can be real science in the future," Wang said.

The prize is organized by the Zhejiang Association of Science and Technology, the Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum and

Like the Ig Nobel Prizes which recognize "achievements that make people laugh, and then think," according to its blog, Pineapple-winning projects are supposed to be imaginative, interesting and thought-provoking. Most of the entrants are university students and teachers.

The jury consists of 16 scientists, who ensure the science is sound, and 23 artists, writers, musicians and actors who decide whether the projects are interesting enough to capture the public imagination.

"We named the prize ‘pineapple', as this nutritive fruit has a bright color and pleasing taste while being strangely shaped," said Ji Shisan, founder and CEO of "So the prize is pleasing, interesting, nourishing — and a little bit strange."

"I was inspired by the ‘Ig Nobel Prize,' but decided to make the prize more acclimatized to China. By launching the prize, we hope more people will get to know science and science will become more popular among the public," Ji said.

"The prize will make more and more people realize that science is fun," Huang Jinzi told a TV reporter at the ceremony.

Last year, in the third round of Pineapple awards, a chemistry prize went to a team at Tongji University that explored "the truth of love", as team leader professor Xue Lei put it. "We worked on fruit flies. In the experiment, we found male fruit flies prefer young females."

Xue extrapolated his findings, suggesting that choosing a young female as a mate could be the instinct of all male animals. He cited a survey of men showing that dream women for most men are aged around 20.

The revelations don't stop there. The medicine/biology prize went to a study that found that a monkey's face looks more like its mother's than its father's. The psychology award was taken home by a team that proved that loving the sound of your own name makes you happier.

In year two, one award-winning study found that counting money can relieve pain and the chemistry prize went to a chemical explanation of why chicken soup tastes best in a pottery crock.

The one to beat, however, remains the team from Zhejiang University that used cost-effective glass materials to develop an "invisibility cloak" that can make gold fish invisible in water and cats vanish into thin air.

That, I gotta see.

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