Playful Bees, Regenerative Hairs Research Awarded China’s Unusual Science Prize
The discovery that bumble bees “play” has been awarded the 2023 Pineapple Science Award in biology, China’s annual science prize for unusual and often humorous research.
“I thank you so much on behalf of all the playful animals of this world,” said Lars Chittka, professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, in a video acceptance speech played at the awards ceremony in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Saturday evening.
Chittka and his research team, which included lead author Samadi Galpayage, discovered that bumble bees repeatedly roll wooden balls despite there being no apparent incentive for doing so, such as obtaining food.
The study monitored the behavior of 45 bumble bees that were given the options of walking unobstructed to a feeding area or deviating into an area with wooden balls. The bees repeatedly chose to roll the balls instead of eating, suggesting that the activity was rewarding.
Nicknamed “China’s Humorous Nobel Prize,” the Pineapple Science Award recognizes interesting and imaginative scientific research that arouses the public’s enthusiasm for science. It was launched in 2012 by the Zhejiang Association for Science and Technology, with previous winning research including studies into why mosquitoes do not die from raindrops and why vacationing can extend one’s life.
“As the top honor in science, the Nobel Prize has the judging requirement of ‘making a great contribution to all mankind’ ... While in China, we have the Pineapple Science Award, which commends those who have no ambition to change the world but will not have their curiosity destroyed by the world either,” the organizer said on microblogging platform Weibo.
Several of this year’s award winners drew their research inspiration from common sayings in life. Sun Qi, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, won this year’s medical prize with her research that confirmed the age-old refrain that plucking gray hairs will only lead to more gray hairs.
Meanwhile, a research team from the University of Amsterdam was awarded the mathematics prize for their research showing that tossing a coin is not as fair as one might think. Following 350,757 tosses, the team found that the side facing up when tossed is more likely to land facing up, at a ratio of about 51:49.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: A screenshot shows bumble bees playing with the balls in research conducted by Queen Mary University of London. From @Samadi Galpayage on YouTube)