Archive for 'Arts and science'

Introducing the Improbable Research weekly podcast: Podcast #1

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

improbableresearchToday is the premiere of the weekly Improbable Research podcast. It’s all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — research about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that’s good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless.

CBS is distributing the Improbable Research podcast, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes. (Improbable Research is one of the new, original podcasts CBS is distributing. CBS also has a number of  podcasts of popular CBS radio programs and other longstanding CBS sources.)

Podcast #1: Homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck

  • LISTEN on iTunes or (Or DOWNLOAD it, and listen later)
  • SUBSCRIBE (to receive a new episode, FREE, every week) on iTunes or

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

  1. Homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. (“The First Case of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae),” C.W. (Kees) Moeliker, Deinsea, vol. 8, 2001, pp.  243-7. / Kees Moeliker’s TED Talk. / De eendenman’ (The Duck Guy), 2009. / Dead Duck Day.)
  2. The karaoke pandemic. (” Effect of Hydration and Vocal Rest on the Vocal Fatigue in Amateur Karaoke Singers,” E.M. Yiu and R.M. Chan, Journal of Voice, vol. 17, no. 2, June 2003, pp. 216-27.)
  3. Artists’ suicides as economic boons. (Kurt  Cobain / Cameron, Samuel, Bijou Yang, and David Lester (2005). ‘Artists’ Suicides as a Public Good,’ Archives of Suicide Research 9 (4): 389–96. / Lester, David (2003). ‘Suicide by Jumping From a Bridge,’ Perceptual and Motor Skills 97 (1): 338.)
  4. Wascally wabbit wrapping. (Greenway, G. W., and R. E. Garcia Via (1977). ‘Designing and Testing an Improved Packaging for Large Hollow Chocolate Bunnies,’ TAPPI Journal, 80 (8): 133. / Vilela, P. M., and D .Thompson (1999). ‘Viscoelasticity: Why Plastic Bags Give Way When You Are Halfway Home,’ European Journal of Physics, vol. 20, no. 1, January 1999, pp. 15-20. )
  5. Dr. Alias, the hair man. (Alias, A. G. (1996) ‘A Statistical Association Between Liberal Body Hair Growth and Intelligence.’ Presented at the Eighth Congress of the Association of European Psychiatrists, London, UK,12 July. (1995) /. ‘Top Ranked Boxers Are Less Hirsute Than Lower Level Boxers: An Example For the Importance of 5-Alpha-Reductase?Biological Psychiatry, 37 (9): 612–13. (1995). /  ‘Non-Pathological Associational Loosening of Marlon Brando: A Sign of Hypoarousal?’ Biological Psychiatry, 37 (9): 613.)
  6. The mind of the waiter. (Bekinschtein, Tristan A., Julian Cardozo, and Facundo F. Manes. ‘Strategies of Buenos Aires Waiters to Enhance Memory Capacity in a Real-Life Setting.’ Behavioural Neurology, 20: 65–70.)
  7. Combing through the hair data. (Disney World /Robbins, Clarence, and Marjorie Gene Robbins (2003). ‘Scalp Hair Length. I. Hair Length in Florida Theme Parks: An Approximation of Hair Length in the United States of America,’ Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54 (1): 53–62.)


The Personalities of Numbers [part 2 of 3]

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Some numbers might be Evil or Odious but others are Happy. A Happy number can be described like this:

happy-numberIf you iterate the process of summing the squares of the decimal digits of a number, then it is easy to see that you either reach the cycle 4→16→37→58→89→145→42→20→4 or arrive at 1. In the latter case you started from a happy number.”

The description comes from a paper in the Rocky Mountain Journal of Mathematics Volume 30, Number 2 (2000), pp. 565-570, entitled: ‘On Happy Numbers’ by professor Samir Siksek of the Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, UK, and Esam El-Sedy [possibly a.k.a. Essam S. El-Sedy of the Ain Shams University  Department of Mathematics]

“Several questions” say the team “are asked about happy numbers, including: ‘How many consecutive happy numbers can you have? Can there be arbitrarily many?’ It is the purpose of this paper to show that there are sequences of consecutive happy numbers of arbitrary length.” The paper makes progress towards the answers, and can be read in full here.

Note that if a number doesn’t satisfy the conditions described above, it must, lamentably, be an Unhappy Number, (a.k.a. a Sad Number) like 33.

Coming soon : Weird numbers

The Personalities of Numbers [part 1 of 3]

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

evil--numberSome people love numbers. And some find them odious and evil. And others manage to embrace both positive and negative sentiments at the same time. Take for example, mathematicians Jean-Paul Allouche, Benoit Cloitre and Vladimir Shevelev who have authored a paper with a distinctively Nietzschean title : ‘Beyond odious and evil’ in: arXiv:1405.6214v1 [math.NT] 23 May 2014

[Note: Odious numbers are numbers with an Odd number of 1s in their binary form. So, 13, which in binary is written 1101 is Odious.

Conversely, 27, which in binary is 11011, is Evil, because it has an Even number of 1s]

The conclusions that the team reach are difficult to summarise in a non-mathematical form, can we suggest that interested parties refer to the paper in full.

Coming soon: Happy numbers

Reaction to an imagined feminist dating partner

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

There’s no need to imagine your reaction to reading about a study about people reacting to an imagined feminist dating partner. Simply read the following, then note down your actual reaction:

Power motivation as an influence on reaction to an imagined feminist dating partner,” Eugene M. Fodor, David P. Wick, and Nicole E. Conroy, Motivation and Emotion, vol. 36, no. 3, 2012, pp. 301-310.

“we conducted a simulated dating service experiment with college men who scored either high or low on the Picture Story Exercise (PSE) measure of power motivation and later observed a video displaying an interview with a hypothetical dating partner. From among the 203 men who completed the PSE, 96 took part in the experiment. The video presented an 8-min enactment by a young woman who came across either as an assertive feminist or as compliant and agreeable. Electromyographic responses from the corrugator supercilii (frown muscles) fit the premise of McClelland’s power-stress theory, as did scores on the Reysen Likability Scale and the Affective Attitudes Scale.”

BONUS (possibly unrelated): Marzi, C. A., F. Mancini, T. Metitieri, and S. Savazzi. “Retinal eccentricity effects on reaction time to imagined stimuli.” Neuropsychologia, 44, no. 8 (2006): 1489-1495.

Miss Poland’s Attractiveness: What, oh, what is enough?

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Leszek Pokrywka, co-author of the seminal study “The Second to Fourth Digit Ratio and Age at First Marriage in Semi-Nomadic People from Namibia” [featured here a while ago], also played a leading role in analyzing what makes and what does not make Miss Poland attractive:

Body mass index and waist: hip ratio are not enough to characterise female attractiveness,” Leszek Pokrywka, Milan Čabrić, Helena Krakowiak, Perception, 2006;35(12):1693-7. the authors explain:

“The assessment of characteristic body features of Miss Poland beauty contest finalists compared with the control group, can contribute to recognising the contemporary ideal of beauty promoted by the mass media. The studies of Playboy models and fashion models conducted so far have been limited to the following determinants of attractiveness: body mass index, waist:hip ratio, and waist:chest ratio, which only partially describe the body shape. We compared 20 body features of the finalists of Miss Poland 2004 beauty contest with those of the students of Medical Academy in Bydgoszcz. Discriminant analysis showed that the thigh girth-height index, waist: chest ratio, height, and body mass index had the greatest discrimination power distinguishing the two groups. A model of Miss Poland finalists figure assessment is presented which allows one to distinguish super-attractive women from the control group.”

The Miss Poland contest.

The Miss Poland contest.

BONUS: A video that addresses a question about the female attractiveness. (Thanks to investigator Lily Hashem for bringing this to our attention):