Japanese researchers win Ig Nobel for research on knob turning

A group of Japanese researchers has won an Ig Nobel Prize for their analysis of how people use their fingers to turn a knob.

Professor Matsuzaki Gen and his team at the Chiba Institute of Technology were awarded this year's engineering prize in an online ceremony on Thursday.

The Ig Nobel awards, inaugurated in 1991 by a US science journal, are a parody of the Nobel Prize and are annually awarded for "research that makes people laugh and then think." This is the 16th straight year that Japanese researchers have won an Ig Nobel Prize.

The team conducted an experiment to observe how people use their fingers in turning knobs of various sizes such as a plastic bottle cap and a volume control. The researchers analyzed the data to explore the relations between the widths of the knobs and the numbers and positions of the fingers used.

In the experiment, 32 volunteers were asked to turn clockwise a total of 45 knobs measuring seven millimeters to 13 centimeters in diameter.

The team found people used their thumb and index finger when turning a knob less than one centimeter in diameter, while three fingers were used when the knob was one centimeter or wider. A majority were found to use all five fingers when turning a knob measuring more than five centimeters. Almost all people used all five fingers when turning a knob with a diameter of more than nine centimeters.

The study was recognized for taking up the challenge of exploring "the most efficient way for people to use their fingers when turning a knob."

Matsuzaki said design engineering is a field that seeks to create good products that are useful to society by exploring the relations between human beings and commodities. He said he will be happy if winning the prize helps to put a spotlight on other researchers in the same field.