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

December 2010, issue number 2010-12. ISSN 1076-500X.

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Monthly mini update/alert from the Annals of Improbable Research

      This issue is at

      <http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/2010/mini2010-12.htm>

      Archive at <http://improbable.com/airchives/miniair/>

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

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2010-12-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2010-12-02 The Magazine: Ig Issue Tiptoeing Near

2010-12-03 Agony-of-the-Leaves Tea Insights

2010-12-04 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Odd Balls

2010-12-05 UK Tour Cities

2010-12-06 Stinkbugs-in-Cotton Competition

2010-12-07 Accuracy-of-100.4% Poet

2010-12-08 Singers/Musicians for our Cambridge Science Festival Show

2010-12-09 MORE IMPROBABLE: Ethicists Steal, Lots of Hairy Scientists

2010-12-10 MAY WE RECOMMEND: A Bid to Identify a Skull

2010-12-11 Improbable Research Events

2010-12-12 -- How to Subscribe to the Magazine (*)

2010-12-13 -- Our Address (*)

2010-12-14 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2010-12-15 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

      Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

      mini-AIR is

      but a wee monthly *supplement*

      to the bi-monthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research

 

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2010-12-02 The Magazine: Ig Issue Tiptoeing Near

 

The special Ig Nobel issue of the magazine, chock full of photos, facts and bacteria from the recent ceremony, is at the printers. It should be making its way to subscribers soon.

 

The Skunk and Canyon issue did manage to amble its way into the world. Read it online at <http://bit.ly/eZ64hJ>

 

Read back issues (including last year's Ig Nobel special issue) online, and/or subscribe to the fully tangible paper version, at: <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>.

 

 

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2010-12-03 Agony-of-the-Leaves Tea Insights

 

Many, and deeply-steeped-in-tradition-or-superstition are the responses to last month's survey about 'The Agony of the Leaves' — "the term used to indicate the unfurling of the tea leaf during steeping."

 

Here are some of the boiled, agonized insights:

 

"Doesn't improve flavor but it's really cool to watch."

—Steve Horowitz

 

"Don't know how leaves feel, but the tea tastes better."

—Jeff Hecht

 

"At the price of being obvious, the cost is steep."

—Erin Butler

 

"Gunpowder tea, maybe valid. Otherwise, bag tea is not suffering."

—Richard Rae

 

"Keeping enjoyable things in a bag is hardly ever recommended."

—William A. Hyman

 

Finally, Douglas Holmes infuses himself, literarily, into the mind of a tea leaf contemplating a plunge into agony:

 

      "Tea-Time is here.

      Do be a dear,

      Give us free play

      In pots of clay."

 

 

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2010-12-04 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Odd Balls

 

This month's spotlighted studies — two in number — contemplate odd balls.

 

First, odd balls, both happy and unhappy:

 

"The Coefficient of Restitution for Collisions of Happy Balls, Unhappy Balls, and Tennis Balls," Rod Cross, American Journal of Physics, vol. 68, November 2000, pp. 1025-31. (Thanks to Tom Roberts for bringing this to our attention.) <http://bit.ly/erOQ86> The authors, at the University of Sydney, Australia, report:

 

"A perfectly happy ball is one that bounces to its original height when dropped on a massive, rigid surface. A completely unhappy ball does not bounce at all.... It is shown that when an unhappy ball collides with a happy ball, the COR increases from zero to unity as the stiffness of the happy ball decreases from infinity to zero."

 

Next a child's view of odd balls, small, white and squeaky:

 

"Do Small White Balls Squeak? Pitch-Object Correspondences in Young Children," Catherine Mondloch and Daphne Maurer, Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 4, no. 2, June 2004, pp. 133-6. (Thanks to Anthony Greco for bringing this to our attention.) <http://bit.ly/gO6QpS> The authors explain that:

 

"Adults with auditory–visual synesthesia agree that higher pitched sounds induce smaller, brighter visual percepts.... In this study, we explored these correspondences in preschoolers... The children reliably matched the higher pitched sound to a smaller and lighter (white) ball, to a lighter (white) ball, and in one of two groups, to a smaller ball."

 

 

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2010-12-05 UK Tour Cities

 

The 9th annual Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, for National Science & Engineering Week, in March, will include events in Bristol (thanks to Hewlett-Packard), in Liverpool (thanks to Unilever), at Imperial College London, and at The University of Dundee. <http://bit.ly/8m4zLa>

 

If your organization would like to host or sponsor an additional event on the tour, please get in touch with us at:

 

      Katherine Meusey <[email protected]>

 

 

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2010-12-06 Stinkbugs-in-Cotton Competition

 

Stink bugs in cotton inspire this month's limerick competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that illuminates the nature of this report:

 

"Detecting Stink Bugs/Damage in Cotton Utilizing a Portable Electronic Nose," Will G. Henderson, Ahmad Khalilian, Young J. Han, Jeremy K. Greene and David C. Degenhardt, Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, vol. 70, no. 1, 2010, pp. 157-62. (Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) The authors are at Clemson University.

<http://www.clemson.edu/precisionag/Stink%20Bug.pdf>

 

 

RULES: Please make sure that: (1) your rhymes actually do; and (2) your poem is in classic, trills-off-the-tongue limerick form.

PRIZE: The winning poet will receive (if we manage to send it to the correct address) a free, non-stinky, probably-not-buggy hi-res PDF issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. Send your limerick to:

 

      STINKBUGS-IN-COTTON DETECTION LIMERICK COMPETITION

      c/o <[email protected]>

 

 

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2010-12-07 Accuracy-of-100.4% Poet

 

The judges have chosen a winner in the Accuracy-of-100.4% Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the study "Gas Distribution Within the Human Gut: Effect of Meals," Frederic Perez, Anna Accarino, Fernando Azpiroz, Sergi Quiroga, and Juan-R. Malagelada, American Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 102, no. 4, April 2007, pp. 842-9. The authors report:

 

      "The volume of gas infused per rectum was

      detected with an accuracy of 100.4 ± 3.0%."

 

The winner is INVESTIGATOR NAN SWIFT, who wrote:

 

Precision! One hundred point four!

The stuff of statistical lore!

   You see, it's my bent,

   With any percent,

To crave just a little bit more.

 

Here's are two alternate offerings from LIMERICK LAUREATE MARTIN EIGER:

 

Measuring things is a chore.

Exactitude's good. We want more.

   At what accuracy

   Can a measurement be?

In percent, it's one hundred point four.

 

In this paper, they say what they do.

Then they do it, and measure it, too.

   How accurately?

   What they tell us they see

Is one hundred point four percent true.

 

 

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2010-12-08 Singers/Musicians for our Cambridge Science Festival Show

 

Are you a scientist who is been yearning to sing or play funny songs about science in a theater filled with an audience who might, possibly, enjoy seeing and/or hearing your performance?

 

If so, audition for our bold, experimental event at the upcoming Cambridge (Massachusetts) Science Festival <http://bit.ly/8m4zLa>:

 

      SCIENTISTS (AND FRIENDS) SING IMPROBABLE SCIENCE SONGS:

      Some of the worldÕs great scientists (and some friends

      from the Boston areaÕs theater and music communities) perform

      songs by Tom Lehrer, songs from Ig Nobel Prize ceremony

      mini-operas, and other beloved and hated purportedly funny

      songs about science.

 

The performance will be at the Central Square Theater on Monday night, May 2, 2011. This will be a benefit performance for the Central Square Theater. We might webcast it. (It's one of several events we'll be doing for the science festival — each event will be very different from the others.)

 

To audition, email us at:

 

      CAMBRIDGE SCIENCE SONGS SHOW c/o <[email protected])

 

 

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2010-12-09 MORE IMPROBABLE: Ethicists Steal, Lots of Hairy Scientists

 

Recent improbable bits you may or may not have missed:

 

New Improbable TV episode: "Dynamics of Hula Hooping"

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_a_8xxpvSw>

 

Sara Muhonen, Caitlin Wichlaczhas, Matan Shelomi, Holly Brothers, Miles Rzechowicz, and the other newest Members of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS), etc:

<http://improbable.com/category/lfhcfs-hair-club/>

 

BLOG <http://improbable.com/>

<> BodnarÕs bra declared an idea-of-the-year

<> Professor CulpeperÕs Insult Power Rankings

<> Super-prolific professors team up

<> Kapow! Israeli army emulates Troy Hurtubise?

<> Differential Gears: The Movie

And many more...

 

NEWSPAPER <http://improbable.com/category/newspaper-column>

<> Do ethicists steal more books (and stuff)?

<> WhoÕs best? Psychologists or novelists?

 

      twitter: ImprobResearch

      facebook: "Improbable Research"

 

 

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2010-12-10 MAY WE RECOMMEND: A Bid to Identify a Skull

 

"The Identification of a Human Skull Recovered from an eBay Sale," Ryan M. Seidemann, Christopher M. Stojanowski and Fredrick J. Rich, Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 54, No. 6, November 2009, pp. 1247-53. (Thanks to Robert Pyatt for bringing this to our attention.) <http://bit.ly/fbYtw4> The author, at the Louisiana Department of Justice, in Baton Rouge, reports:

 

"A human skull seized by the State of Louisiana from an eBay sale is analyzed. Bioarchaeological analyses of age-at-death, sex, and population affinity suggest the individual represented by the skull was a middle-aged Native American female."

 

 

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2010-12-11 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

AAAS, Washington, DC                      — Feb 19, 2011

 

UK Tour                                   — Mar 2011

 

Edinburgh Science Festival                — TBA

 

Scandinavia Tour                          — Apr 2011

 

Cambridge (MA) Science Festival           — May 2011

 

NIH NICHD Retreat, Warrenton, VA          — May 17, 2011

 

Cairo, Egypt                              — Jun 2011

 

HUPO, Geneva, Switzerland                 — Sep 4, 2011

 

Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony                   — Sept 29, 2011

 

 

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2010-12-12 -- How to Subscribe to the Magazine (*)

 

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.)

 

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2010-12-13 -- 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: subscriptions AT improbable.com

Web Site: <http://www.improbable.com>

Blog: www.improbable.com

Twitter: ImprobResearch

 

 

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2010-12-14 -- 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

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Kees Moeliker, Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, Stephen Drew

MAITRE DE COMPUTATION: Jerry Lotto

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

 

(c) copyright 2010, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2010-12-15 -- 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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