Home News Science&Tech Ig Nobel Prize for research into dirty banknotes

Ig Nobel Prize for research into dirty banknotes

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A Nijmegen professor has won an Ig Nobel Prize for his study of dirty banknotes. He discovered that Romanian banknotes hold almost all bacteria the longest, while notes from Croatia and India are surprisingly clean.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are meant for research that first makes you laugh and then makes you think. They were awarded last night at Harvard University in America by ‘real’ Nobel Prize winners.

The presentation of the Ig Nobel Prizes is full of oddities. For example, the audience can throw paper airplanes from the venue to the stage. The winners traditionally receive a symbolic amount of 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars. And if their acceptance speech lasts longer than a minute, an 8-year-old girl shouts: “Please stop, I’m bored.”

Yet it is indeed about serious research, which must have been published in a recognized scientific journal. The idea behind the Ig Nobel Prizes is that important discoveries are often made when you do not expect it and that scientists must therefore dare to think out of the box.

The Dutch winner is Andreas Voss, professor of infection prevention at Radboud University. He did the research with his son Timothy and a Turkish colleague. Their banknote research was awarded in the Economy category. They compared banknotes from seven countries for the presence of bacteria.

Those from Romania score the worst, presumably due to a polymer fiber that is supposed to prevent counterfeiting but which retains bacteria. Notes from Croatia are the cleanest and Indian rupees also contain few bacteria, Voss noted.

US dollars prove to be a good breeding ground for the multi-resistant hospital bacterium MRSA. That bacterium can hardly be found on euro notes. But there the intestinal bacterium E.coli – better known as the poop bacterium – has a higher chance of survival.

Voss is happy with the price, he said in the NOS Radio 1 Journal. “It was a very special evening. A big party with hundreds of people, organized in a very nice way,” said the prize winner. “And every time at the presentation, we have to wait and see if the winners like it as much as the organization.”

The Voss investigation into banknotes was already published in 2013. The idea originated from personal interest. “When you travel, you often get paper money in your hand that feels sticky. Then the thought occurred to me: isn’t something wrong?”, Voss said.

According to Voss, we do not have to worry about the higher chance of survival for the shit bacteria on the euro banknotes. “I think it is important for banks to make sure that transfer of microorganisms is possible. Furthermore, it does not pose a health risk, but it is a reminder for people that after contact with those notes they have to wash their hands before they contact with mouth, nose and eye, “said Voss.

Other investigations that were awarded showed, among other things, that clickers used to train dogs also work well with surgeons in training, that eating pizza protects against all kinds of diseases, and that an average toddler produces half a liter of saliva every day.

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