Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have been given the top prize for physics at the Ig nobel awards ceremony on Friday for their study of how people avoid bumping into each other in crowds.
Researcher Alessandro Corbetta and professor Federico Toschi discovered that pedestrians keep an average minimal distance of 75 centimetres between them and the people they are on a collision course with when moving in a group.
However, the distance people thought necessary to avoid potentially painful human contact could reach 1.4 metres, almost that of the social distancing rule, although the research was carried out pre pandemic.
‘People are constantly changing course so as not to bump into each other,’ Corbetta said. Some 18,000 people would have collided if they had not done so, and 80 actually did.
The study, took place at Eindhoven central station using sensors which tracked travellers’ movements.
The Ig Nobel prize is aimed at science that makes people laugh and then think, and the Eindhoven research fits the bill on both counts, the jury decided.
The researchers hope to use the results of their study to make places where many people come together safer and more efficient, for example at festivals and museums.
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