Wednesday 22 September 2021

Dutch uni takes Ig Nobel for research into bumping in crowds


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.

This year’s winners include research into why the obesity of post-Soviet politicians is an indicator of corruption, a comparative study into the purring of cats and cockroach control on submarines.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.