Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Cover image orientation in celebrity cookbooks (new study)

Monday, August 21st, 2017

If you a reader, collector, participant, or are in any other way connected to, or interested in Celebrity Chefs’ Cookbooks you may have found yourself wondering whether the chefs pictured on the book covers predominantly tend to present their right cheek to the camera or their left cheek?

In that case, thanks to Dr Annukka Lindell of the Department of Psychology and Counselling, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, you now have information at hand to assist your research.

“Celebrity cookbook covers (N = 493) were sourced online; identity, portrait orientation, photo type, and sex were coded. For celebrity cookbooks, left cheek covers (39.6%) were more frequent than right cheek (31.6%) or midline covers (28.8%); sex did not predict pose orientation.”

See: Celebrity chefs put their left cheek forward: Cover image orientation in celebrity cookbooks in the current issue of Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, Vol 25, 2017, issue 5.

* Note: “Only cookbooks available in hardback or paperback were sampled. Self-published eBooks were excluded: a chef without the media attention and publicity needed to garner a publication deal is, by definition, not a celebrity chef.”




Ig Nobel ceremony on September 14 ( One month from today!)

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony will happen on Thursday evening, September 14.

A few tickets (most of them in the back rows of the balcony) are still available.

The Harvard Box Office handles all ticket sales. The physical ticket office [now in a temporary location in Farkas Hall, 10 Holyoke Street, Cambridge] is open some (but not all!) days from noon to 6 pm. Telephone (+1) 617-496-2222.
The web site is open 24 hours, every day.

Tickets: $75 / $65 / $55 / $35
Student tickets: $70 / $60 / $50 / $30
Ig Glorious tickets: $150. We fund the ceremony (theater rental, and half a zillion other expenses) mainly through ticket revenues. We are offering a few special “Ig Glorious” tickets, for persons who want to be specially supportive. Ig Glorious tickets come with special perks: Excellent seats; A vintage copy of the Annals of Improbable Research, signed by an emissary; Their photo taken at the Ig Nobel lectern on stage (before or after the ceremony, at the discretion of the Stage Manager); Access to our Ig Glorious Liaison, a staff member assigned to the “Ig Glorious” group for the entirety of the event; And a hearty handshake!

WHERE: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University
WHEN: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017, 6:00 pm.
Ceremony details.

Slowing down ping pong for TV (study)

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

“The medial [sic] appeal of table tennis seems to go down in terms of TV hours, at least outside Asia. One of the reasons is the fact that the speed of the game is nowadays so high that it is very hard for spectators to follow the balls.”

So, in terms of slowing down the game (in order to increase its appeal for TV viewers) what might be done? In 2013, a team from the Institute of Physics, and the Institute of Community Medicine at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Greifswald, along with the Faculty of Informatics and Electrical Engineering, University Rostock, Germany, decided to use a computational modeling approach to provide answers.

An Euler solver was used, because its algorithmic simplicity allowed an easy transfer onto the GPU with CUDA. A commonly used Runge-Kutta algorithm was not chosen, because it has larger computational costs. A fourth order Runge Kutta approach needs to calculate four times the forces, which slows down the code performance in our case compared to the simple Euler method. This was not compensated by the larger time step possible with the Runge-Kutta method compared to the Euler method. The dependence of the aero dynamic forces on the velocity also does not allow the use of a Verlet algorithm. Therefore, we decided to stay with the Euler method.”

The results revealed not one, but two possible methodologies which could be practical solutions – if adopted by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

“A larger ball of 44 mm with small weight is one option for suppressing high velocities, resulting also in a reduction of the influence of spinning. As an alternative option an increase of the net height is possible.”

See:’ Computer simulations of table tennis ball trajectories for studies of the influence of ball size and net height ‘ in the International Journal of Computer Science in Sport, volume 12/2013/edition 2.

Bonus Task [optional] Suggest other methods that might be employed to slow down the game.

Also see: Things researchers do with ping-pong balls

Note: The illustration is an interesting candidate for the Necker cube illusion. (stare at it for a while and it will probably flip)




Soap Film Opera, fluid dynamically, in France

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

A series of musico-visual treats — in a new genre called “soap film opera” — are being produced by Florence Elias and her colleagues at Laboratoire Matière et Sytèmes Complexes, Université Paris Diderot and at CNRS. The genre marries soap film, fluid dynamics, music, and videography. Here are three samples — “Habañera” from Carmen, “Lucilla”, and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:

(Thanks to Nicole Sharp of FYFD for bringing this to our attention.)


“All these papers were deliberately bad”

Monday, August 7th, 2017

“All these papers were deliberately bad. They were created with the purpose of exposing exploitative publishing practices. That is, the works collected here were sting operations on predatory journals.” So says the introduction to the book Stinging the Predators: A collection of papers that should never have been published, assembled by Zen Faulkes. Falkes is a professor of biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. You can download the book, free.

That book includes the following papers, and follows them with some Faulkesian analysis of the situation that led people to write the papers, and led publishers to publish them:

The Sokal hoax (1996)

The blog that called predator (June 2009)

Abstract theology (August 2011)

Random math (September 2012)

The Bohannon Science sting (October 2013)

“Get me off your fucking mailing list” (November 2014)

Cuckoo for cocoa puffs (January 2015)

Fake news (May 2015)

Been there, done that (August 2016)

“Siri, write me a conference abstract” (October 2016)

The first Spears (November 2016)

The second Spears (December 2016)

Doctor Fraud (March 2017)

A paper about nothing (April 2017)

The conceptual penis (May 2017)

The garbage’ll do (July 2017)

Spam inspires surreal sting (July 2017)

NOTE: Publication of the Sokal hoax paper led to the awarding of the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for literature to the editors of the journal Social Text, for eagerly publishing research that they could not understand, that the author said was meaningless, and which claimed that reality does not exist.