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Fruitful outcome for Chinese researchers

By YAN DONGJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-22 10:14

A primary student is invited onstage to assist in an experiment given by an award winner (middle) at the Pineapple Science Awards ceremony held in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Nov 11. [Photo/Xinhua]

Sun Qi, Liu Yizhi among winners of Pineapple Science Awards announced at international summit in Wenzhou

"Plucking hair makes it turn white faster."

"Results of coin flips are not 50 percent for each side."

These were the topics of two of the 10 fun scientific studies conducted by domestic and foreign scientists from home and abroad that won Pineapple Science Awards in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Nov 11.

Sun Qi, a researcher from the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University, had developed an interest in the "plucking hair" legend.

He led a team to conduct experiments for two years, using black mice as subjects. They repeatedly plucked the hair on the back of the mice, waited for their hair to grow back, and observed the relationship between hair plucking and white hair growth through microscopes and genetic research.

Eventually, the hair on the black mice began turning white. The study found that when hairs are repeatedly plucked and regrown, the hair follicles' stem cells responsible for providing melanin are more prone to "making mistakes" due to being constantly busy, which accumulates and accelerates the graying process. The study not only confirmed a long-held belief passed down through generations but also revealed one of the reasons why it happens.

Sun and her research team were awarded the 2023 Pineapple Science Award in Medicine for their research findings. The award was announced on Nov 11 in Wenzhou along with 10 others in fields including mathematics, psychology and physics.

"The Pineapple Science Awards are a good attempt to educate the public about science and stimulate the curiosity and imagination of young people through 'fun and serious' scientific interpretation and communication, and hopefully more people will get involved," said Su Jilan, a marine scientist and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

First held in 2012 to honor imaginative research, the Pineapple Science Awards have been part of the World Young Scientists Summit since 2019, collecting, honoring and disseminating imaginative research results and events.

The Pineapple Science "Caring for the Next Generation" Award was presented to researcher Liu Yizhi and his team from Sun Yatsen University's Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center. The team conducted an experiment involving over 2,000 students from 24 primary schools, with half the students required to engage in outdoor activities for two hours after school, while the other half were not required to do so.

After a year, students in the former group showed no difference in academic performance than those in the latter, but they had a significantly lower incidence of myopia and improved physical condition.

The Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center's Eye Research Institute conducted the experiment to substantiate a discovery made by scientists more than a decade ago — that the main causes of myopia in adolescents were not watching TV or playing on smartphones, but rather the lack of time spent outdoors and inadequate exposure to natural light.

The institute's study proved that providing primary school students with an extra hour or two of outdoor activities every day can significantly decrease incidences of myopia.

Researcher Frantisek Bartos and her team from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands organized a coin flipping marathon to determine if the results of coin flips are truly 50 percent for each side. Using 46 different coins, including Chinese currency, a total of 350,757 tosses were recorded, meticulously documenting the orientation of the coin at the beginning and end of each toss.

The conclusion was that a coin tends to land on the same side it started on, with an approximate ratio of 51:49.

According to classical probability theory, a large number of experiments with a fair coin flip should approach 50 percent each, so this deviation is quite significant.

For their efforts, the Dutch team won the Pineapple Science Award in Mathematics.

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