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How Slippery Is a Banana Peel?

By Magdeline Lum

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes had a focus on weird science involving food.

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The 2014 Ig Nobel Physics Prize has been awarded to a team led by Kiyoshi Mabuchi of Kitsato University. The team studied the “Frictional coefficient under banana skin” to answer the age old question of how slippery a banana skin is.

Banana skins were placed on a plate to measure the coefficient of friction that results from an applied force. It was found that the banana skin with its interior side facing down on the plate was six times more slippery in comparison to a plate without being treated with a banana skin.

Mabuchi’s team was especially meticulous, and also tested the coefficient of friction for apple peel and citron peel.

The interior of the banana skin was by far the most slippery. They surmised that a biological substance called follicular gel was the responsible agent for the lubrication. Banana skins are nearly as slippery as skis on snow.

How does this further scientific knowledge? Mabuchi is a professor of biotribology – a subfield of biomechanics centred on lubrication, friction and wear. He specialises in studying how friction and lubrication affect the movement of joints, and wants to use his studies to improve the function of artificial limbs.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.