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The Physics of Slipping on a Banana Peel, And Other Weird, Ig Nobel Science

Banana peels may be the secret to better prosthetics

A totally realistic portrayal of what it's like to slip on a banana peel. (Image Source/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Banana peels are the bane of anyone looking for sure footing. (Just ask Wile E. Coyote or anyone who's ever played Mario Kart.) But are banana peels really that slippery? As it turns out, yes. And the discovery of what makes them so earned a team of scientists the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize in physics.

Banana peels are especially slippery, even when compared to other fruits' peels, because of polysaccharide molecules in the peel. Yet these chemicals, says the BBC, are also present “in the membranes where our bones meet,” and understanding how they work could help with designing better prosthetics.

Digging a little deeper into the seemingly silly study gives an answer to the question: “Wait, why did scientists spend time and money studying that?” Highlighting the surprisingly practicality in ridiculous sounding research is the goal of the Ig Nobel prizes, which were handed out at Harvard University yesterday.

Along with the physics of banana peels, awards went out to scientists who showed that stuffing your nose with cured pork is a good way to stop a life-threatening nose bleed and that it's totally normal to see Jesus' face in your toast.

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of research highlighted by the Ig Nobel awards went to a team of researchers who studied “the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.” [Hint: Pretty paintings make it hurt less.]

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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