A device to trace the source of a fart and research on why flies keep rubbing their front legs together are among the winners of a Chinese award celebrating the lighthearted side of science.
The Pineapple Science Award is given for research and projects that are both fun and serious in ten fields including psychology, physics and biology.
Amusement value is not enough. All entries must have been published in recognized academic journals or presented to conferences.
Why flies rub their "hands" together had been a source of mystery to David Hu since his childhood. Now a scientist with the Georgia Institute of Technology, he found out that flies brush dirt off their bodies with the tiny hairs on their legs, then rub the dirt off. That finding won him the Pineapple Science Award for Biology this year.
"Curiosity inspires great discoveries," Hu said. Space stations can use his discovery to keep their solar panels clean, he suggested.
Curiosity and fun is what sustains scientists through the hardship of their work, Nobel laureate George Fitzgerald Smoot once said, and the work of Li Jigong of Tianjin University not only solves the mystery of who farted, but provides a way to locate the source of any odor through the complex dynamics of air. It won this year's Pineapple Science Award for Physics.
The device can be fitted to a robot that can locate and fix toxic gas leakage, keeping rescuers out of harm's way, Li said.
"Now isa good time to promote science in China as more people are enjoying reading and talking about it but we have to take care to keep it fun," said Zhang Liang who won an award for his science writing on Chinese microblog service Weibo.com.
The value of the popular science is being rediscovered in China. "We should find more entertaining ways to show people the charm of science," said Li Miao, a professor with Sun Yat-sen University.
The Pineapple Science Award, organized by the Zhejiang Science and Technology Museum and China's top science writing website Guokr.com, was first held in 2012. It is named for the fruit which looks bizarre, but is tasty and nourishing, epitomizing the kind of thought-provoking research the jury are on the lookout for.