UCSB Engineering

September 28, 2012

Professor Wins Coveted Ig Nobel Prize for Coffee Spill Research

Mechanical engineering professor Rouslan Krechetnikov received a 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for "coffee sloshing" fluid dynamics research

Science is fun, and there's an award to prove it. In their 22nd annual ceremony on September 20, 2012, publishers of the Annals of Improbable Research handed out coveted Ig Nobel Prizes for research that "makes people laugh and then think." Mechanical engineering professor Rouslan Krechetnikov attended the award ceremony held at Harvard University to receive a 2012 Ig Nobel Prize in Fluid Dynamics "for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee."

"I am quite proud of the prize," commented Krechetnikov when asked how he felt about the Ig Nobel honor. "The Igs" are intended to spur public curiosity and interest in science and other fields of endeavor. Prizes are awarded annually and winners are invited to attend the ceremony at Harvard. Other winners of the 2012 Ig Nobel Prizes include:
  • Chemistry Prize: for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderlov, Sweden, people's hair turned green.
  • Physics Prize: for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.
  • Anatomy Prize: for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimps individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
  • Medicine Prize: for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.

"We just wanted to satisfy our curiosity and, given the results, to share what we learned with the scientific community through peer-reviewed literature," Krechetnikov said in an interview with the Associated Press. "It is one of those cases where we were interested in explaining the phenomena, but not changing it."

Earlier this year, Krechetnikov's "coffee sloshing" research made headlines when he and graduate student Hans Mayer published "Walking with coffee: Why does it spill? " in Physical Review E. He was interviewed by ABC News and MSNBC, among other major news outlets. The physics of Krechetnikov's Ig Nobel-winning research was the subject of an article in Scientific American this week, "ARGH! I spilled my coffee in the hall again!"

In his acceptance speech at the Ig Nobel Prize award ceremony, Krechetnikov said,"To paraphrase the Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, Pyotr Kapitsa (1978): In the same way that fairy tales help children learn about the world of adults, simple science problems help students and researchers to learn about the physics picture of the universe. Some problems become part of the folklore."

Watch Professor Krechetnikov accept the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize


Coffee slosh Ig Nobel Rouslan Krechetnikov

Related Links

Scientific American Blog: ARGH I spilled my coffee in the hall again!

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