Youngsters are fascinated by an “elephant toothpaste” chemistry demonstration at the science fair at Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum, which showcases science in a fun, accessible way. Provided to China Daily
On April 1, 2012, Zhao Yinlong, a Beijing-based freelance journalist, wrote a tongue-in-cheek article outlining his idea to build a nasal mucus suction machine for daily use.
It was an idea he came up with in the depths of a bad cold, and he imagined it as a cross between a manual breast pump and earphones.
He did not expect that exactly one year later he would win a science prize for his fantasy invention.
Zhao is the winner of this year’s Pineapple Invention Award.
With the theme, “admiring curiosity”, the second Pineapple Science Prize was held in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, earlier this month. The annual event, now in its second year, is a joint initiative of Guokr.com, a social network for science fans, and Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum. It aims to present science to people in an interesting and humorous way and encourage curiosity.
The awards, China’s version of the The Ig Nobel Prizes, an American parody of the Nobel Prizes, honor people who display curiosity and persistence in the field of science.
Ji Xiaohua, the man behind the event and founder of Guokr.com, says he hopes the awards can create opportunities to bring scientists and the public together to laugh and think. “Scientific research can be serious, but it can also be fun for the public if they can feel involved,” he says.
This year, nine individuals and research groups received awards for their scientific findings.
Research projects that found Chinese people identify with their bosses faster than Westerners, and male budgerigars release a certain kind of scent to attract female birds, were among the winners.
Wei Xiaoyong, dean of the department of computer science at Sichuan University, won this year’s Pineapple ME award, an honor bestowed on a scientifically influential individual.
Wei became famous in China after a video clip in which he demonstrates physical theories to students by chopping bricks with bare hands, went viral on the Internet. He was criticized by some of his peers for grandstanding, but Wei stood by his teaching method of applying scientific theories to daily life.
“I don’t think science should be high in the sky so that people have to look up to it. Science can be discovered and understood through everything around us. The door to science is the ability to link theories with phenomenon,” he says.
Daniel Shechtman, 2011’s Nobel Chemistry Prize laureate, says the awards focused on creativity. “The awards share the same spirit as the Nobel Prize, which is to stimulate people’s curiosity towards science,” he said in a speech at the awards launching ceremony.
However, not all winners were happy to receive the award. Four of the nine winners did not attend the ceremony and refused to accept the honor.
One reason for their reluctance may be the controversial award given to China’s official train ticket booking website, which has been criticized for its poor service. The awards honored the much maligned website with a Pineapple U award because it inspired Chinese netizens to design plug-in software to make ticket purchasing easier.
Though humorous, the ironic award has offended some winners who are focused on serious scientific research.
Wei from Sichuan University says some scientific researchers believe science should not be a source of ridicule.
For Zhao, the award for his portable nasal mucus pump is encouraging.
“When you catch a cold and mucus keeps running out of your nose, you really want a piece of equipment to take it out,” Zhao says of his invention.
He is now looking for investment to manufacture his invention in a large scale.
The awards also aim to bring science to the public.
A two-day science fair was held inside Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum last week to showcase scientific findings in a fun way. Attendance was free.
Twenty-three stalls, including power generated through a pineapple, a 3-D printing machine, a picture painted with magic cubes and a flying machine controlled by the mind, demonstrated the diverse and exciting world of science.
Zhao Jinyuan, 4, went to the show all the way from Ningbo with his father. He was impressed by a fruit piano, which links fruits with wires that make a sound when you touch them.
The boy played Happy Birthday with the help of his father.
“I hope to inspire his curiosity for science and the world in an interesting way. This event provides a platform for him,” says father Zhao Kai.
About 700 people visited the fair on its opening day within the first four hours.
Source: China Daily