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Posted : 2017-09-18 17:42
Updated : 2017-09-18 18:48

Han wins Ig Nobel Prize with coffee cup

Han Ji-won speaks during the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theater in Boston, Thursday, in this screen-capture from YouTube.

By Nam Hyun-woo

A Korean student, Han Ji-won, won an Ig Nobel Prize with his idea on learning what happens when a person walks backward while carrying a cup of coffee.

Improbable Research, a U.S.-based organization, held the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theater in Boston, Thursday, and named Han as the winner of the "Fluid Dynamics Prize."

The prize, established in 1991, is to honor scientific "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."

Along with Han, other winners also conducted research on bizarre subjects, such as using fluid dynamics to probe the classic question "Can a cat be both a solid and a liquid?"

In the mid 1930s, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger came up with a paradox called "Schrodinger's cat," a thought experiment regarding a scenario where a cat may be simultaneously both alive and dead in quantum physics.

Han won the prize with his 15-page 2015 paper "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime."

The paper was written when he was a high school student at Minjok Leadership Academy in Gangwon Province and was published in Achievements in the Life Sciences magazine in January 2016. Han now studies at Virginia Tech.

In the paper, he used dynamics to prove that it is easier to spill from a cylindrical mug than a wine glass and holding the cup from the top, which he called "claw-hand posture," we can suppress resonance and not spill the contents.

"I know what you are thinking, is this practical? Absolutely not," Han said in his acceptance speech. "For those who do not want to spill their coffee, that's why the lid was invented."

"I did learn another important lesson from this research. The research was not about how old you are or how smart you are. It was about how much coffee you can drink. And with enough coffee-drinking, and a little bit of bad luck, you might end up in Boston."

Though the prize is a parody of the Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel Prize laureates are not just parody-level scientists.
Andre Geim, a Dutch physicist, received the Ig Nobel Prize for using magnets to levitate a frog and won the Nobel Prize 10 years later with his research on the two-dimensional material graphene.

Including Han, four Koreans have been named as Ig Nobel Prize winners so far.

In 1999, Kwon Hyuk-ho of Kolon won the Environmental Protection award for inventing the self-perfuming business suit.
Not all Korean winners would be proud of the prizes.

In 2000, Rev. Moon Sun-myung of the Unification Church received the Economics prize for "bringing efficiency and steady growth to the mass-marriage industry," with the church's mass-marriages.

In 2011, Lee Jang-rim of Damisun Church won a Mathematics prize for predicting the world would end in 1992.


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