HANGZHOU: Cat tongues are more efficient than brushes, longer vacations mean a longer life and even dinosaurs suffered from neck arthritis – all this according to what is arguably the most bizarre science award in China, which once again paid its annual tribute to the spirit of curiosity.
“It’s a fantastic award because it celebrates not only science, but curiosity in particular, ” said Marcos Martinon-Torres, a professor with the University of Cambridge, who won a chemistry prize last Saturday. “Science is not always a straight path. You have to follow your curiosity. Sometimes you get lost and sometimes you discover the unexpected.”
Legend has it that ancient Chinese craftsmen had mastered advanced chromium metal coating technology so that the bronze swords unearthed from Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors pit were almost rustless.
But Martinon-Torres found that it was the pit soil that functioned as a natural preservative due to its suitable pH value, small amounts of organic matter and fine granular structure.
As China’s equivalent of the Ig Nobel Prizes – the US parody of the Nobel – the Pineapple award is given in fields such as psychology, physics and biology.
Ten awards were handed to global scientists who based their seemingly trivial findings on serious science.
David Hu from the Georgia Institute of Technology won this year’s physics prize for “bringing a new dawn to the brush industry”, 10,000 years after the brush was invented.
Based on research on the tongues of six felines, Hu designed a detergent-saving brush that simulated the barbed microstructure of a cat tongue.
Neck arthritis was long thought to be a disease unique to humans, born from the need to directly support the head on a cervical spine.
But Xing Lida, a professor with the China University of Geosciences, and his team learned that humans do not have a monopoly on neck arthritis.
They found cervical arthropathy in dinosaur fossils, for which they won a Pineapple prize for biology. — Xinhua