Archive for 'Arts and science'

“Being German is No Laughing Matter”

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Andreas Kluth, the Berlin bureau chief of the British magazine The Economist, wrote an essay called “Being German is No Laughing Matter“. Here is the beginning of that essay:

Shortly after moving back to Germany in 2012 after decades of absence, mainly in Anglo-Saxon countries, I took my kids to the Berlin zoo. The children were two, four and seven at the time, and had already developed a keen sense of irony (particularly the eldest one) – or at least they understood that dad doesn’t always mean things literally, because, you know, it’s funny. So we queued for our tickets, trading silly jokes. Like me, the kids are dual citizens of America and Germany, though at that time, fresh from California, we still felt more American and more at ease in English. But we deliberately spoke German, to help us acclimatise to our new home. In a mood of levity, we approached the ticket window.

The lady behind it informed me that the price for the elder two was such-and-such and the little’un was free. “What if I pay you a bit extra and you keep them?” I suggested. The kids snortled and started naming prices that might clear the market.

The lady stared back, horrified. Then, slowly, she leaned forward to look at my children, who stiffened. “Your dad does not really mean that,” she said. “He does not really want to sell you.”

That pretty much killed the mood for all four of us until somewhere between the giraffes and the polar bears. “Why did she say that?” my daughter asked, in English, as though out of an instinct for cultural self-preservation. As I pondered the question, I couldn’t help but think there was something peculiarly German about the lady’s reaction. First, Germans really, really struggle to grasp non-literal meanings. Second, Germans really, really can’t help but say when they think you’re wrong….



“Commenting by Emoji: A Tentative Glossary for Legal Writing Professors”

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Are you a legal-writing professor? Unsure about the use of Emoji(s) for comments on academic work? Jennifer Murphy Romig who is an Instructor in Legal Writing, of the Research and Advocacy Program at Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, US, has produced a guide to ‘Commenting by Emoji: A Tentative Glossary for Legal Writing Professors’. Here is an excerpt:



Also see:   ‘To :) or not to :) ?’ and ‘The trouble with emoji: Misinterpreted emotions’.

Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Dress (podcast 62)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

What is necessary — from an engineer’s perspective —to keep a strapless evening dress in place? We explore that question, and the Henson-Conantian music that resulted from it, in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

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This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by Nicole Sharp — tells about:

  • Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Dress: The essay Charles E. Siem‘s essay “Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown” appears in the book called Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gownedited by Robert Baker. Here’s a look at the book cover, and at one of the diagrams in the essay:
  • Strapless-BOOKSiem-dress-diagramStress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown: The music— Deborah Henson-Conant‘s musical creation appears on her Grammy-nominated album Invention & Alchemy, which is available via her web site, HipHarp.comInventionAlchemyCover
  • Stress Analysis is a collection of knowledge and techniques developed by engineers, to help them figure out whether particular objects will remain intact, or will instead crack and perhaps break.

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

Positing Air Rage: High Society, Ill-fitting in Flights, Having Fits

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Pugnacious behavior of airline passengers mirrors that of the society that is, in several ways, miles below them, suggests this newly published study. By studying what happens to the the high class people and other classy people crammed into high-flying airplanes, you can better understand what happens to the teeming, sometimes steaming, millions on the ground:

air rage STUDY

decellesPhysical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage,” Katherine A. DeCellesa [pictured here] and Michael I. Norton, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, epub May 2, 2016. The authors, at the University of Toronto and Harvard Business School, explain:

“We posit that the modern airplane is a social microcosm of class-based society, and that the increasing incidence of “air rage” can be understood through the lens of inequality…. Analyses reveal that air rage is more common in economy class on airplanes, where inequality is physically present, and in both economy and first class when inequality is situationally salient. We extend research demonstrating that the salience of inequality decreases prosocial behavior by higher class individuals, showing that temporary exposure to physical and situational inequality predicts antisocial behavior among individuals in both higher and lower classes.”

Theory of Everything: Gendered Exploitation of Cockfighting Roosters

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Here’s another entry in the competition for A Theory That Explains Everything. This one is a study published in the year 2010:

Roosters, hawks and dawgs: Toward an inclusive, embodied eco/feminist psychology,” pattrice jones, Feminism Psychology, vol. 20 no. 3, August 2010, pp. 365-380. The author (who spell her names with all lowercase letters) explains:
“The gendered exploitation of roosters used in cockfighting is a case example of the social construction of gender via animals… The rehabilitation of roosters used in cockfighting illustrates the utility of an expanded and amended conception of Herman’s principles of trauma recovery enacted within the emerging insights of trans-species psychology. Those insights lead us toward a truly inclusive eco/feminist psychology centered on acceptance of situated human animality and an understanding of traumatic alienation as a factor in both personal and communal problems in living, including climate change.”

(Thanks to Ron Josephson for bringing this to our attention.)