US researchers have won this year's IgNobel chemistry prize for demonstrating that swimming in syrup is no slower than swimming in water.
US researchers have won this year’s IgNobel chemistry prize for demonstrating that swimming in syrup is no slower than swimming in water.
The IgNobels come hot on the heels of the Nobels. They are, according to the awarding committee, awarded for scientific achievements that ’make people laugh, and then make them think.’ Prizes were presented at Harvard University by genuine Nobel laureates.
The 2005 chemistry prize went to US researchers Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota, and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, who turned up in their swimming trunks to collect the prize for their paper Will humans swim faster or slower in syrup?
Cussler, a professor of chemical engineering, and Gettelfinger, a graduate student and swimmer, hypothesised that the speed of a swimmer would not be affected by the viscosity of the medium in which they swam. This turned out to be the case.
Gettelfinger was captain of the Minnesota swim team when he and Cussler did their experiment. Research subjects, including Gettelfinger, swam in a ’thickened’ pool and in a regular pool for control laps.
’This experiment had nothing to do with my normal research and has
no practical value whatsoever,’ Cussler told Chemistry World. ’The prize is a joke, but a chance to make science more interesting to the public,’ he said. Katharine Sanderson