Archive for 'Arts and science'

Evaluating a fake teacher (à la a fake babe on a dating site)

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Two medical educators injected a fake teacher into an evaluate-your-teachers survey, in a medical school. Ivan Oransky, writing in MedPage Today, describes the study and the incident that motivated those two medical educators:

Dear medical school faculty members, here’s a question that may come to mind as the new academic year gets underway: What if you earned an evaluation for a course you hadn’t taught?

00-Sebastian-UYou might keep it to yourself, I suppose, if the evaluation was good. But if it was just average — as happened to Sebastian Uijtdehaage, PhD [pictured here], of the Geffen UCLA School of Medicine in 2006 — you might be “flummoxed.”

In fact, if you’re Uijtdehaage, the episode might raise “the sticky question of whether medical students are completing [teaching evaluations] mindlessly, without due diligence,” and might prompt you to study the subject — which Uijtdehaage and his colleague Christopher O’Neal, PhD, did.

The researchers went so far as to  include a photo “of an attractive young model who, perhaps regretfully, did not resemble any of our faculty members.” That fake teacher-babe drew some responses — though fewer responses when her picture was included than when she was a mere textual description.

The study itself is: “A curious case of the phantom professor: mindless teaching evaluations by medical students,” Sebastian Uijtdehaage and Christopher O’Neal, Medical Education, Volume 49, Issue 9, September 2015, pages 928–932.

Solar powered owl systems (new patent)

Friday, August 28th, 2015

In a new (07 July 2015) US patent, inventor Lucy D. Thomas of Fontana, California, describes ‘Solar Powered Owl Systems‘.


It features not only yellow LED eyes, and a 360 degree rotatable head, but also has ultrasonic screech capabilities.

Note: Patent documents are sometimes inclined towards using quite long sentences.

Bonus Question: Why?

“A pest deterrent system comprising: a deterrent assembly including; a housing having; a head portion including; at least two eyes; at least two ears; and a beak; a body portion; a left wing; a right wing; a left foot; and a right foot; at least one motion sensor; at least one speaker; a plurality of illuminators; a powerer; electrical wiring; at least one power storer; an adjustable mounting plate; a plurality of fasteners; an elevated stand assembly having; a crossbar; an elevating-rod; at least one mounting lug; and a through-pin; wherein said deterrent assembly comprises in combination said housing, said at least one motion sensor, said at least one speaker, said plurality of illuminators, said powerer, said electrical wiring, said at least one power storer, said adjustable mounting plate, said elevated stand assembly; wherein said housing in combination comprises said head portion, said body portion, said left wing, said right wing, said left foot, and said right foot; wherein said housing resembles a bird of prey;

Click to continue reading “Solar powered owl systems (new patent)”

Trying to measure the iffiness of lots of psych research

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Many psychologists try to measure things that are tough to measure — and many of those many do it iffily. The Reproducibility Project is trying to measure how iffy those measurements are. They published a study called “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science,” about their progress.

Psychological ScienceBenedict Carey tells about this, in a New York Times article called “Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says.”

Ed Yong tells about it, in an Atlantic article called “How Reliable Are Psychology Studies?

You might be able to tell something about it by skimming through titles and abstracts of studies published in Psychological Science.

Psychological Science is the top-of-the-line psychology research journal assembled by the top-of-the-line association of psychologists, the Association for Psychological Science (also known as the APS). An overlapping top-of-the-line association of psychologists, the APA, is known these days for the way some of its recent leaders relate to the activity that people other than those leaders call “torture”.

BONUS: Here’s how some (hard to say how much, but the Reproducibility Project might one day be able to say something) of the most iffy research can happen: “Science Isn’t Broken
It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for“, by Christie Aschewanden, on the FiveThirtyEight web site.


Paige Bebee’s excellent appendix adventure film

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Paige Bebee’s short film, “The Secret of the Appendix”, is the 2015 winner of the secondary schools’ category in the annual Schools Sleek Geeks Eureka Science video prize. Behold:

The Sleek Geeks, inspiritors of the video prize, are two in number: Karl Kruszelnicki (who is, among other things a 2002 Ig Nobel Prize winner for his work with belly button lint) and Adam Spencer.

The gentleman munching in the film is Barry Marshall, who has eaten stranger things and even been rewarded, eventually, for doing so.

(Thanks to Joanne Gould for bringing this to our attention.)

“Why does coffee make you poop?” Four videos.

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Several organizations try to answer the same question (a question that is laden with assumptions): “Why does coffee make you poop?”

Discovery News:


ACS Reactions:

Nathan and Rose:

(Thanks to Vaughn Tan for bringing this to our attention.)