Dirty money theory, fake-whiskey finder tapped for wins

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Organizers of the award, including the semi-official Zhejiang Provincial Association of Science and Technology, said they wanted to encourage innovation. Photo: Handout

The envelope please: A Chinese researcher has been honored with a coveted Pineapple Science Award for leading a study into the relationship between dirty money (that is, banknotes infested with harmful bacteria) and dirty deals (dodgy business transactions).

Zhou Xinyue, a Zhejiang University (ZJU) professor, got a namecheck at last week’s Pineapple Science Awards ceremony in recognition of his novel research into this relationship. The prize: a trophy in the form of a water faucet, according to Xinhua.

Why? Organizers said the faucets symbolized a source of endless inspiration.

But Xinhua had a different theory: “Awardees [in] nine categories ranging from physics to psychology may find the trophies more useful than their research findings.”

The Pineapple Science Award is China’s equivalent of the Ig Nobel Prizes, a US parody of the Nobel Prize.

Other winners included a team of medical doctors who built a mathematical model of human sperm traveling toward an egg for fertilization; the inventors of an automatic sock-washing machine; and a portable detector to sniff out adulterated whiskey.

But as for the dirty-money research, many netizens were unimpressed. One wrote on a forum that even elementary-school pupils knew that dirty deals involved dirty money. Others questioned the relevance of the study now that cashless, mobile payment was ubiquitous throughout China.

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This year’s trophy is a faucet. Photo: Handout

Organizers including the semi-official Zhejiang Provincial Association of Science and Technology stressed the “high threshold” for entries, as they must publish their findings in recognized academic journals so as to qualify.

“Some of my colleagues thought I should shun the award, as otherwise I would not be considered as a serious researcher,” ZJU’s Zhou said. But he decided to attend the ceremony just for fun, as he was curious to meet other recipients of this seemingly unscientific, whimsical award.

Other awardees included overseas scholars.

Roger Chen, a sustainable-development expert at the University of Texas at Austin, won the physics prize for his findings that staying at home could be more eco-friendly than going out – a discovery that may give many of the world’s homebodies and couch potatoes a compelling justification.

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Chen calculated that remaining indoors could cut the use of transportation and public resources, saving Americans 500 billion kilowatt-hours of energy annually.

But it seemed that Chen’s findings were also a compelling reason not to fly to China to receive the award in person, so organizers said a faucet would be delivered to him via courier.

This was the sixth time that innovative researchers had been praised in a carnival-like ceremony also attended by avid fans of the award.

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