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Roberto Benzi won the IgNobel award, the recognition for science that “first makes you laugh and then gives you something to think about”

How do pedestrians not collide when they walk? And, conversely, why do they sometimes collide? Two bizarre researches in the field of kinetic physics have earned IgNobel awards for two Italian research teams.

Also this year, unfortunately, the award ceremony took place online, due to pandemic, having to give up the traditional ceremony organized by the Annals of Improbable Research in the Sanders Theatre of Harvard University.

The first edition of the IgNobel prize was held in 1991, since then the science curious, funny, “the one that makes you laugh but gives you think” has had its own award.

The spirit of the IgNobel, in fact, is to give recognition to those surprising scientific researches, which concern apparently unimportant aspects, but which, in reality, require a deep mastery of physics to be carried out.

This year Italy brings two awards, both given for research in kinetic physics. The question is: how do pedestrians collide or not collide when they walk? What organizes their flow?

Claudio Felciani, winner and author of the paper submitted for the IgNobels, said, “We look at the bidirectional flow of pedestrians, that is, two groups of people walking in opposite directions. We study what contributes to the formation of lines or queues when people walk in a corridor or click from the green in a crowded crosswalk, and what element causes such an organization to fail instead.”

Clash is avoided through implicit communication; the distraction of one individual within the group can make collision with another inevitable.

Even IgNobels have their scientific value, such a research, although it seems a slight curiosity, can help in the design of places where many pedestrians circulate and to understand, more generally, how human flows work.

Congratulations to the Italian researchers awarded with the prize, in particular to Roberto Benzi, member of the CREF Board of Directors.