Taiwanese scientists share Ig Nobel

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

Tue, Sep 22, 2015 - Page 5

An academic paper by two Taiwanese researchers has won one of this year’s humorous yet serious Ig Nobel awards at Harvard University, said Marc Abrahams in Boston, who heads the prize committee.

Patricia Yang (楊佩良) and David Hu (胡立德) shared the physics prize with colleagues Jonathan Pham and Jerome Choo at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, for “testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds [plus or minus 13 seconds].”

Their academic paper was titled “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size” and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, Abrahams said.

All four members of the Georgia Tech team attended the recent Ig Nobel ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, he said.

“The Ig Nobel prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think,” Abrahams said.

When asked why the urination research team’s paper was selected for an Ig Nobel this year, Abrahams said by e-mail: “Because it makes people laugh, then it makes them think. And it will make them laugh and think, again, for the rest of their lives, every time they think about emptying their bladders.”

Yang, who grew up in Taichung, said she and her colleagues were delighted to receive the physics prize last week.

“I still can’t believe we won an Ig Nobel,” Yang said.

“Our research reached further than we had ever expected. It was an honor, for sure, especially for people asking fundamental scientific questions,” Yang said.

“I got my undergraduate degree from NTU [National Taiwan University] in 2011, double majoring in physics and engineering science, and ocean engineering,” Yang said.

“I am now a fourth-year student doing a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech,” she said.

Hu did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering and received a doctorate in applied mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011, Yang said, adding that Hu was born in Chicago, Illinois, and that both his parents are from Taiwan.