Japan’s Professor Wins Ig Nobel Prize For Research On Knob Turning

Small-known academic topics like why ducklings swim in a line configuration are honored by annual satirical awards.

The best method to flip a knob is one of life’s underappreciated talents. A study into this unanswered subject has now been honored with an Ig Nobel prize, one of science’s most prestigious honors.

Turning doorknob
A group of Japanese industrial designers conducted several lab-based trials. They discovered that as the size of the knob increases, the number of fingers to be used also increases.

Not to be confused with the heavier-weight Nobel prize honors, the team is one of 10 to receive distinction at this year’s Ig Nobel Awards for research that “first makes you laugh, then makes you think.” And this will be presented in Scandinavia next month.

Other prizes at the online presentation on Thursday night include the physics prize for demonstrating why ducklings swim in a line formation and the economics medal for quantitatively demonstrating why success frequently favors the luckiest individuals rather than the most brilliant. A global team developed an algorithm to assist gossipers in deciding when to tell the truth and when to lie, and this work earned them the Peace Prize.

A three-dimensional paper gear portraying human teeth and a 10 trillion-dollar bill from Zimbabwe were given to the winners by eight real Nobel laureates, including the British biologist Sir Richard Roberts.

Prof. Gen Matsuzaki is a researcher in industrial design at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan. He earned the engineering prize for his ideas on “rotary control of columnar knobs.” He claimed that he had received recognition for “working on a topic that nobody cared about.”

Prof. Gen Matsuzaki showing his Nobel prize

After watching the video clips of 32 volunteers turning 47 odd sizes knobs, the researchers discovered that three fingers are typically needed to turn a knob wider than 1cm. Four to five fingers as the diameter of the knob increases to 2.5cm to 5cm respectively. According to the team’s report published in the Japanese Society Bulletin for the Science of Design, “We cannot turn a columnar control of small diameter with all five fingers.”

Matsuzaki theorized that the piece may have influenced the creation of correctly shaped faucets or volume control knobs, but he said, “Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing.” His research interests have since switched to bag handles and umbrella grips after the 1999 publication of the work.

Prof. Frank Fish and his team at West Chester University in Pennsylvania won the physics prize for their investigation into the reason why ducklings swim in a line pattern. Fish stated, “I had always dreamed about that because I would never receive the Nobel Prize.”

When Fish spotted a mother duck and her young swimming near a river that passes through Michigan State University, he was finishing up his thesis on the hydrodynamics of muskrats. According to Fish, the last duckling in the line benefits the most from the linear layout since it uses less energy. In a large water tank, the ducklings were taught to follow a mechanical mother duck.

Duck and Ducklings moving in formation

The team that investigated the causes of court papers’ extraordinarily high level of complexity won the literary prize. Francis Mollica, who worked on the study at the University of Edinburgh, stated, “We all had this feeling that legal language is complex, but we need to know empirically: how awful is it?” The study found that the issue is poor writing, not challenging subjects. According to Mollica, center embedding is one of the worst tendencies, which involves taking two phrases and combining them rather than keeping them apart.

However, he continued, “We didn’t evaluate those kinds of intentions. Someone may inevitably [make contracts confusing] for bad faith reasons.

A study on how constipation affects scorpion reproduction and analysis of traditional Maya pottery both received recognition for their groundbreaking research. “Contrary to the prevalent idea that the ancient Maya were a thoughtful people,” a study of classic Maya pottery revealed. They might have indulged in laxatives that contained alcohol or substances known to cause hallucinations.

Editor of the journal Annals of Improbable Research and creator of the awards, Marc Abrahams, stated: “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel prize tonight – and especially if you did – better luck next year.”

Source: TheGuardian

Also read about Nobel prize for medicine won by Japanese and American cancer Researchers

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