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The importance of amazing scientific research

The importance of amazing scientific research

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Like every year in this period, the week they just come is over Announcing the Nobel Prizes, among the most coveted prizes for scientific research and beyond. This year’s winners proved their worth Quantum mechanics propertiesFind ways Some molecules are produced more easilyRespected Degree of kinship with Neanderthals Is written Biographical novels Much appreciated, to name a few. Their activities were taken seriously, unlike those presented only a month earlier as part of the Ig Nobel, prizes were awarded with a good dose of humor for the most unusual and unusual research. However, the latter deserves to be taken seriously, starting with the media.

Ig Nobel (from a play on words with the English term “ignoble”) was created in the early 1990s by American Humor magazine Annals of Unlikely Researchwhich publishes a mixture of real science articles, but very strange and unusual, and ones of pure fiction and humor, such as a comparison analysis of pears and apples.

Just like the Nobel, Ig Nobels are announced every year at the end of the summer and then delivered at a ceremony at Harvard University. Finally, award recipients have the opportunity to present the fruits of their research, more seriously than one might imagine, at some very well attended conference. The awards are actually reserved for real research groups that have obtained results that are unusual or out of the ordinary, seemingly useless, but over the years they sometimes prove necessary for some other important discovery.

How He says The organization, Ig Nobels, aims to “honor results that first make people laugh, then make them think”. The goal is not to ridicule the science, as the award-makers explain: “Good results can also be weird, funny, or even silly. […] A lot of good science is attacked for being ridiculous. A lot of bad science is celebrated even though it is absurd.”

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For example, this year’s Ig Nobel for engineering was awarded to Japanese General Matsuzaki, an industrial design researcher who published in 1999. study On the handles to open doors, turn on the taps, or adjust the volume of audio equipment. For his own research, he filmed about thirty volunteers trying to open doors with 47 different types of knobs.

General Matsuzaki, along with his research team, found that three fingers are usually required to rotate a handle with a diameter greater than one centimeter, while at least four fingers are required for handles with a diameter greater than 2.5 centimeters and five fingers if the diameter reaches 5 centimeters. The research also indicated that it was essentially impossible to rotate a handle of small diameter with all five fingers.

In the more than 20 years since its publication, it cannot be excluded that the studio has inspired some designers in the process of designing a control for an audio device or a faucet, but General Matsuzaki may never know, also because he gave up on it several years ago a field of research devoted to umbrella handles and suitcase handles. . Analyzes about how we use things may seem trivial and obvious, but in fact they prove useful for developing items that are more comfortable, for example with characteristics that people with special disabilities use more easily.

Also this year was the Ig Nobel Prize for Physics Charged For Frank Fish and his research group at West Chester University (USA), who wondered why swimming one row after another. The fish built a mechanical duck and then arranged for a group of ducklings to be tracked in a controlled environment tank for experiments. The study found that swimming in a row reduces the energy expenditure of ducks especially for those in line, who benefit from the vigilance that their mates leave in front.

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Instead, Ig Nobel was in economics Charged A group of Italian researchers, who in 2018 published a study with assessments on the role of opportunity in professional success and failure. Their analysis found that “while it is true that a certain degree of talent is necessary for success in life, the most talented people rarely achieve the highest levels of success.”

The context of humor in which Ig Nobels are awarded often leads to an underestimation of the scientific research awarded, also because of the way it is told by the general press. In the titles and articles, the curious and interesting aspect of the research is characteristic, conveying the impression that the studies awarded are largely useless and even a waste of resources that lead to nothing. In fact, an important part of scientific research is done to expand knowledge in certain areas and without necessarily pursuing practical applications. These usually come later, as part of a long and often very bumpy process.

In 2000, physicist Andre Geim won the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics with Michael Berry thanks to Search in which they demonstrated the possibility of magnetically levitating a frog. A few years later, forget the frogs, Jim proves his skills by winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for researching graphene, a material with enormous potential thanks to its great resistance and flexibility.

Another Ig Nobel, this time for biology, was awarded in 2006 for having established that females Anopheles The Gambia, the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting malaria, are equally attracted to the smell of Limburger – a particular cheese produced in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as to the smell of human feet. The study later led to some experimenting with mosquito traps, made with cheese as bait, to divert their attention from humans and thus reduce the risk of infection.

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