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The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")

May 2008, Issue number 2008-05. ISSN 1076-500X.

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A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

     This issue at

     <http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/2008/mini2008-05.htm>

     Archive at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>

Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the

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2008-05-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2008-05-02 Imminent Events

2008-05-03 What's New in the Magazine

2008-05-04 Questions About Victor Vroom

2008-05-05 Dead Duck Day is Coming

2008-05-06 Questions About Sam Speed

2008-05-07 Most-Plagiarized Paper Project

2008-05-08 Questions About Quentin Quick

2008-05-09 Seriously Open Access

2008-05-10 Old Intestines Poet

2008-05-11 Swedish Crisp Bread Salivation Competition

2008-05-12 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: The Power of Debugging

2008-05-13 BLOGLIGHTS: Not Even Wrong, Bozo and the Bush

2008-05-14 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Vacuum Caution, Near Dancers

2008-05-15 Improbable Research Events

2008-05-16 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2008-05-17 -- Our Address (*)

2008-05-18 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2008-05-19 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

     Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

     mini-AIR is

     a free monthly *e-supplement* to the print magazine

     Annals of Improbable Research

 

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2008-05-02 Imminent Events

 

     Denver, USA                         Sun, June 1, 7 pm

     American Society for Mass Spectrometry Annual Conference

 

     Rotterdam, The Netherlands          Thu, June 5, 5:55 pm

     Dead Duck Day (see below for details)

 

     Cheltenham, UK                 Sat, June 7, 9 pm

     Cheltenham Science Festival

     Ig Nobel Cabaret <http://tinyurl.com/4x6mea>

 

 

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2008-05-03 What's New in the Magazine

 

The entire magazine -- the Annals of Improbable Research -- is

now online for free for all. Open access, open access, we repeat.

 

The May/June 2008 issue (vol. 14, no. 2) is a special Terrorism

Research issue. Highlights include:

 

<> "How to Recognize a Weapon of Mass Destruction"

<> "Plucked From Obscurity: Anti-Terrorism Mask"

<> "Smells of Happiness, and of Fear"

 

It's online at

<http://improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume14/v14i3/v14i3.html>

Many back issues are online, too, at

<http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>

 

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2008-05-04 Questions About Victor Vroom

 

Investigator Haile Brandt writes:

 

"Who is Victor Vroom, and is he real, and why aren't you writing

about him?"

 

Our preliminary investigation reveals that: (1) he probably is

real, and if so is a professor at the Yale School of Management;

and that (2) his middle initial is H. A photograph of his head is

online at <http://mba.yale.edu/faculty/profiles/vroom.shtml>. We

have no compelling reason to believe that the photograph is of

someone else's head.

 

The investigation also reveals that, in answering investigator

Brandt's question, we are writing about Victor Vroom. Thus the

final part of investigator Brandt's question is moot.

 

 

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2008-05-05 Dead Duck Day is Coming

 

Every June 5, for 11 years now, a small number of staff members of the

Natural History Museum Rotterdam silently celebrated what they call

"Dead Duck Day", to commemorate the sudden and dramatic death on June

5th, 1995 of the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) that entered the

scientific literature as the first victim of homosexual necrophilia in

this species. In 2003, the incident was also commemorated with the

awarding of the Ig Nobel Biology Prize (see

<http://improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2003>).

 

This year the 12th annual Dead Duck Day is open to the public. The

Natural History Museum Rotterdam and the European Bureau of Improbable

Research invite duck enthusiasts and other people to come to the lawn

next to the glass pavilion of the museum -- the site where the duck met

its fate -- and join the short open-air ceremony. The collision

occurred at 5:55 pm, as will the memorial celebration.

 

For additional detail, see

<http://improbable.com/2008/05/24/dead-duck-day-is-coming/>

 

 

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2008-05-06 Questions About Sam Speed

 

Investigator Haile Brandt also writes:

 

"Who is Sam Speed, and is he real, and why aren't you writing

about him?"

 

Our preliminary investigation reveals that: (1) he probably is

real, and if so is a graduate student in mathematics at the

University of Memphis (Tennessee); and that (2) his full name is

Sam Elmo Speed, Jr. Some of his activities and interests are

listed at <http://www.msci.memphis.edu/~speeds/>.

 

Here, too, the final part of investigator Brandt's question is

moot.

 

 

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2008-05-07 Most-Plagiarized Paper Project

 

What is the most-plagiarized research paper? Help us answer this

non-pressing question.

 

No wild guesses, please. If you have compelling evidence as to

which is the most-plagiarized, please send the evidence, or a

pointer to it, to:

 

     MOST-PLAGIARIZED PAPER COMPETITION

     c/o <marca AT chem2.harvard.edu>

 

Please also include a pointer to the paper (to the original or to

a plagiarized or non-plagiarized copy).

 

Thanks to investigator/quirkologist Richard Wiseman for

suggesting the need for this project.

 

 

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2008-05-08 Questions About Quentin Quick

 

Investigator Haile Brandt also writes:

 

"Who is Quentin Quick, and is he real, and why aren't you writing

about him?"

 

We will dispose of this one quasi-eponymously (in a word:

quickly).

 

Apparently, Quentin Quick is or was a chemist with Union Carbide

Corporation in South Charleston, West Virginia. Teaming with

Friso Willeboordse, he wrote the 1968 study "Direct gas

chromatographic analysis of isomeric diaminotoluenes," Anal.

Chem.; 1968; 40(10) pp 1455-1458; DOI: 10.1021/ac60266a035

<http://tinyurl.com/3sbt2f>.

 

That is all that we are willing at this point to say about

Quentin Quick, investigator Haile Brandt be damned.

 

 

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2008-05-09 Seriously Open Access

 

This week we learned that open-access research is serious

business.

 

Recently, our magazine -- the Annals of Improbable Research --

went "open access". We now put all our content online free, and

are gradually adding the content from past issues, too.

 

Librarians, every more squeezed for funds, had been urging us to

do this. And then, they said, be sure to tell the Directory of

Open Access Journals <http://www.doaj.org>.

 

We wrote to the DOAJ, asking to be included on their list. DOAJ's

motto is "free, full text, quality controlled scientific and

scholarly journals. We aim to cover all subjects and languages."

 

But a DOAJ administrator wrote back, explaining:

 

     "I do not think we will be able to include

     the Annals of Improbable Research, even if I am sure

     the magazine does make people both laugh and think.

    

     It is not, however, scientific or scholarly

     in the way we expect journals in DOAJ to be,

     meaning making people think, only."

 

 

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2008-05-10 Old Intestines Poet

 

The judges have chosen a winner for last month's Peat-Bog Man's

Intestines Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to

honor the study "The Intestines of a More Than 2000 Years Old

Peat-Bog Man: Microscopy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and 14C-

dating," Hans St┐dkilde-J┐rgensen, Niels Otto Jacobsen, Esbern

Warncke and Jan Heinemeier, Journal of Archaeological Science,

vol. 35, no. 3, March 2008, pp. 530-4.

<http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2007.05.010>

 

Here are the winner and her limerick.

 

INVESTIGATOR ALISON I. SMITH:

An MRI and carbon dater

Put Peat Bog Man's death story straighter:

   His guts fed the roots

   Of some plants' growing shoots

Post mortem, two centuries later.

 

And here's the take from LIMERICK LAUREATE MARTIN EIGER.

 

Microscopy and MRI

Were applied to the corpse of some guy.

   Carbon dating was too.

   The conclusion (who knew?!):

Plant roots grow in your gut once you die.

 

 

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2008-05-11 Swedish Crisp Bread Salivation Competition

 

Swedish crisp bread salivation is the subject of this month's

limerick competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that

illuminates the nature of this report:

 

               * * *

"Salivary Secretion in Response to Mastication of Crisp Bread,"

Rose Marie Pangborn and Birgit Lundgren, Journal of Texture

Studies, vol. 8, 1977, pp. 463-72. <http://tinyurl.com/5ej3sj>

The authors report that:

 

"Using a precision sialometer, unilateral parotid saliva was

collected from six subjects while they masticated and swallowed

pieces and powders from four types of Swedish crisp breads....

The results indicate that the measurement of the relation between

the amount (and possibly the composition) of saliva secreted and

the texture and chemical properties of foods can be quantitated."

               * * *

 

RULES: Please make sure your rhymes actually do, and that your

poem is in classic, trips-off-the-tongue limerick form.

 

PRIZE: The winning poet will receive (if we manage to send it to

the correct address) a free, possibly crisp issue of the Annals

of Improbable Research. Send entries (one entry per entrant) to:

 

     SWEDISH CRISP BREAD SALIVATION LIMERICK COMPETITION

     c/o <marca AT chem2.harvard.edu>

 

 

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2008-05-12 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: The Power of Debugging

 

This month's specially selected study is:

 

"Aerodynamics: Insects Can Halve Wind-Turbine Power," Gustave P.

Corten And Herman F. Veldkamp, Nature, vol. 412, 2001, pp. 41-2.

<http://tinyurl.com/65askj> The authors explain that:

 

"For no apparent reason, the power of wind turbines operating in

high winds may drop, causing production losses of up to 25 per

cent. Here we use a new flow-visualization technique to analyse

airflow separation over the blades and find that insects caught

on the leading edges in earlier low-wind periods are to blame.

These potentially catastrophic power glitches can be prevented

simply by cleaning the blades."

 

 

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2008-05-13 BLOGLIGHTS: Not Even Wrong, Bozo and the Bush

 

Here are some recent topics in our blog:

 

<> The Alfred Hitchcock strawberry

<> Not Even Wrong: Chapter 2501

<> Handing it to the bird, in the bush

<> Editors love intestines

<> Bozo, Down Under and re-organized

<> Blah blah from chicken chicken

 

and some from the newspaper column in The Guardian:

 

<> Why Parisians behave as they do

<> End upon end upon end╔

<> Lead versus feathers, Round 2

<> Smells like holy spirit

 

... and more

 

     Read the blog

     every day at <http://www.improbable.com>

 

 

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2008-05-14 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Vacuum Caution, Near Dancers

 

TO CLEAN IS TO DISTURB

"Vacuum Cleaner Epilepsy," C. Carlson and E.K. St Louis,

Neurology, vol. 63, no. 1, July 13, 2004, pp. 190-1.

 

APPLIED RESEARCH: PROXIMITY TO PRANCING

"Testing Legal Assumptions Regarding the Effects of Dancer Nudity

and Proximity to Patron on Erotic Expression," D. Linz, E.

Bulmenthal, E. Donnerstein, D. Kunkel, B.J. Shafer, and A.

Lichtenstein, Law and Human Behavior, vol. 24, no. 5, 2000, pp.

507-33.

 

 

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2008-05-15 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

<http://improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/complete-schedule>

 

AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR MASS SPECTROMETRY (ASMS) ANNUAL CONFERENCE,

DENVER                         -- JUN 1, 2008

 

DEAD DUCK DAY, ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS          JUN 5, 2008

 

CHELTENHAM SCIENCE FESTIVAL, UK     -- JUN 7, 2008

 

ALPBACH TECHNOLOGY FORUM, AUSTRIA   -- AUG 21-23, 2008

 

IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY             -- OCT 2, 2008

 

IG INFORMAL LECTURES           -- OCT 4, 2008

 

AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY, DAYTON, OHIO  OCT 10, 2008

 

GENOA SCIENCE FESTIVAL, ITALY       -- OCT 24, 2008

 

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2008-05-16 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

 

The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year

magazine. (It's bigger and better than the little bits of

overflow material you've been reading in this newsletter). The

online version is at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>.

 

To subscribe to the paper-and-ink version, go to

<http://improbable.com/subscribe/> or send in this form:

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Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or

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     Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

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     617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927 <air AT improbable.com>

 

 

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2008-05-17 -- Our Address (*)

 

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA

617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

 

EDITORIAL: marca AT chem2.harvard.edu

SUBSCRIPTIONS: air AT improbable.com

WEB SITE: <http://www.improbable.com>

 

 

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2008-05-18 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

 

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever

appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that

the material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-

AIR for commercial purposes.

 

     ------------- mini-AIRheads -------------

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last

few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson

COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen

ASSOCIATIVE EDITOR: Mark Dionne

PSYCHOLOGY EDITOR: Robin Abrahams

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest

Ersatz, S. Drew

MAITRE DE COMPUTATION: Jerry Lotto

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon

Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

 

(c) copyright 2008, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2008-05-19 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. Mini-AIR is a (free!)

tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine.

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To subscribe or unsubscribe, please visit

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