Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How Slippery Is a Banana Peel?

By Magdeline Lum

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

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.

Bacon Stops a Chronic Nosebleed

Stanford University physician Ian Humphreys has won the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for using bacon to stop the nosebleed of a 4-year old girl. The girl in the study had Glanzmann thrombasthaenia, a rare platelet disorder that can cause fatal internal and nasal bleeding and bruising.

On the first instance of the child arriving to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, a doctor treated her with applied pressure, gave her a clotting protein and sent her home. She returned the next day as “a pale, ill-appearing child in moderate distress” and had “brisk bleeding” from the nose.

This time the girl was taken to surgery, where a specialised dressing was inserted to control the bleeding – but this failed after 2 days. A blood transfusion was given before another round of surgery for a different type of dressing as well as a coagulation protein and a red blood transfusion. Time was allowed to give her nasal cavity to heal.

When the doctors began to remove the dressings, bleeding began immediately. They then applied a high tech gauze and increased the girl’s dose of the coagulation protein and kept her sedated.

After 5 days, the team began to remove the gauze only to have the nosebleed return. It was at this point “cured salted pork crafted as a nasal tampon” was placed in both nasal vaults. Three days later the bleeding had stemmed and the result was much better than any of the previous post-operative results. The treatment worked.

The cured salted pork was called upon again about a month later when the girl fell on her face, causing a nosebleed. The team used the pork treatment again and the bleeding was once again stemmed.

The team found that the salted pork contains clotting factors as well as a lot of salt. However, the medical team advises against using bacon for an ordinary nosebleed as it could lead to infection. The nasal pork tampon should be reserved for people with Glanzmann thrombasthaenia.