Archive for 'Arts and science'

Sheep are a fluid (as will be explained tonight in Washington)

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Nicole Sharp explains, in FYFD, how sheep are, more or less, a fluid:

Not all fluids are, well, fluid. Traffic, flocks of birds, ants, and even sheep can behave like fluids. This video shows an aerial perspective on sheep being herded, and despite the four-legged nature of these particles, they have a lot of fluid-like characteristics.

This video shows the flow:

Tonight’s show: Nicole Sharp will be one of the stars of the Improbable Research show, tonight, Saturday, February 13, at the AAAS Annual Meeting, in Washington, DC.

The Show begins at 8 pm, in the Diplomat Room of the Omni Shoreham Hotel. You will also meet two Ig Nobel Prize winners, and be exposed to: the discovery that most mammals urinate in (on average) 21 seconds; an algorithm that predicts who will win the 2016 US presidential election; a one-minute History of the Universe; research on why people watch cat videos; and the partial unboiling of an egg.

Tonight’s event is open, free, to the public. Spread the word, please!

BONUS: Demonstration of the physics of sheep through a bottleneck

BONUS: “Describing People as Particles Isn’t Always a Bad Idea” (though sometimes it is)

Throwing glass balls from tall buildings

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Things researchers do with ping-pong balls

Friday, February 12th, 2016

If you are one of those who thinks that a ping-pong (table tennis) ball is only good for playing ping-pong (table tennis) then you’d be wrong. Researchers across the globe have found them useful in many ways – for example:

Ping-Pong-BallTo simulate snow avalanches (videos here in .avi format)

As a surgical aid in liver transplantation

For tracking whelks

To make ganzfeld goggles

To deter elephants (when filled with chilli oil)

Improbable can predict, with some confidence, that there are other research fields where ping-pong (table tennis) balls are found to be useful, if not indispensable – if you are aware of any, do let us know by commenting below (please note that in this instance, we’re looking for uses that researchers find for the balls, rather than researchers observing what others might do with them.)

Further reading: Technical Leaflet T3: The Ball


A partial history of trained dancing chickens

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

This video tells part of the history of trained dancing chickens, with emphasis on the role played by psychologist B.F. Skinner (who is pictured below):

Modern Farmer offers a more extensive history.


Consumer alert: Schizophrenic reportage on schizophrenia

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Consumer beware. The past month has supplied these two items:
(1)  In Scientific American: ” ‘Schizophrenia Gene’ Discovery
(2) In BMJ (the publication formerly called British Medical Journal): ” ‘Schizophrenia’ does not exist