Archive for 'Arts and science'

A feisty embuggerance

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

christomalisStephen Chrisomalis [pictured here] writes, in the Glossographia blog, about feisty embuggerance:

When I grade my students’ paper proposals, I make a point of doing a brief Google Scholar search for each student’s proposal, which a) helps me evaluate how thorough they have been; b) helps me help them find additional material (I then give them the sources I found, but also the keywords I used to find them). One of my students in my introductory linguistic anthropology course this term is doing a paper on linguistic aspects of laughter and humor. During my search, I encountered the following citation (direct from Google Scholar to you):

Embuggerance, E., and H. Feisty. 2008. The linguistics of laughter. English Today 1, no. 04: 47-47.

After I stopped laughing, I set to figuring out what was going on….

(Thanks to investigator Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)

Further prying insights on lying

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Ariely and colleagues have a new study about lying: “The Brain Adapts to Dishonesty,” by Neil Garrett, Stephanie Lazzaro, Dan Ariely, and Tali Sharot, published in Nature Neuroscience.

A news report in Scientific American sums it up: “The team’s findings, published today in Nature Neuroscience, confirm in a laboratory setting that dishonesty grows with repetition. The researchers also used brain imaging to reveal a neural mechanism that may help explain why.”

Co-author Garrett describes what the team did and found, in this video:


Dan Ariely and three other colleagues were awarded the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. (Their study about that: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.)

BONUS: Two of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners did research on related topics:



“Nuts!” (of/and goats, and dogs, etc., and people), the film

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

220px-dr-_john_r-_brinkley“In 1922, Brinkley traveled to Los Angeles at the invitation of Harry Chandler, owner of the Los Angeles Times, who challenged Brinkley to transplant goat testicles into one of his editors.”

That’s just one nugget from the Wikipedia biography of “Doctor” John R. Brinkley, who lived a colorful life. Implanting goat testicles into strangers was not the half, or even fifth of it. Well, maybe the fifth of it.

A new documentary film called “Nuts!” chews over the life and claims and accomplishments of the not-so-good non-doctor. Here’s the trailer for the film:


(Thanks to Erwin Kompanje for bringing this to our attention.)

Multiple personalities in the Watson vs. Crick strand controversy

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Dan Gaur, a member of the Luxuriant Former Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS), and a colleague published a paper on the (little-known) Watson-Crick controversy:

The Multiple Personalities of Watson and Crick Strands,” Reed A. Cartwright and Dan Graur, Biology Direct, vol. 6, no. 7, 2011. The authors, at the University of Houston, explain:

“Background: In genetics it is customary to refer to double-stranded DNA as containing a ‘Watson strand’ and a ‘Crick strand.’ However, there seems to be no consensus in the literature on the exact meaning of these two terms, and the many usages contradict one another as well as the original definition. Here, we review the history of the terminology and suggest retaining a single sense that is currently the most useful and consistent.”

Here’s detail from the study:


BONUS: Here’s a short video documentary about Watson and Crick and their strands. The documentary is most notable from the apparently near-death qualities evident in the narrator’s voice:

20 questions answered by the man who looked at the world upside-down

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Atsuki Higashiyama, winner of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for perception, answers 20 questions, in the Japan Times. It begins:


Ig Nobel perception prize winner Atsuki Higashiyama: ‘Psychology teaches us to be scientific and skeptical’



Name: Atsuki Higashiyama
Age: 65
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Professor of psychology, Ritsumeikan University
Likes: Walking, spending a whole day not thinking
Dislikes: Business, teaching

1. Please explain your research on perception. My research focuses on 3-D perception — the relationship between visual perception and body orientation.

2. Did you ever expect to win an Ig Nobel prize? No, never. It was a complete surprise.

3. What prize did you receive? I received 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, a 61-second clock, a certificate and a very warm welcome.

4. Describe the pose that is synonymous with your research. I sometimes, not often, take the pose of bending over and looking between my legs. I have encouraged participants of the experiments to take this pose for a very short elapsed time on every trial. If we kept this pose for a long time, the blood would pile in the brain, which should be avoided….

BONUS: Watch Professor Higashiyama receive the prize, in this video of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (the prize is announced at the 1:20:05 point in this video):