Archive for 'Arts and science'

Orgasms in 27 Languages: “Behold, I Am Coming Soon!”

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Linguistics is a sometimes exciting discipline. Behold this newly published study:

Behold, I Am Coming Soon! A Study on the Conceptualization of Sexual Orgasm in 27 Languages,” Anita Yen Chiang and Wen-yu Chiang [pictured here], Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 31, no. 3, July-September 2016, pp. 131-147. The authors, at National Taiwan University, explain:

WenYuChiang“languages tend to conceptualize orgasm as a physiological response in the terms for orgasm; whereas more languages are inclined to conceptualize orgasm as an ideal goal in the announcements for orgasm. Depending on whether the focus is on the physiological, psychological, and ideal aspects during sex, native speakers of their various languages may conceptualize orgasm with the conceptual metaphors ORGASM IS A PEAK, ORGASM IS FIRE, ORGASM IS DEATH, ORGASM IS A DESTINATION, and ORGASM IS THE RELEASE OF FORCE/SUBSTANCE IN A CONTAINER; conceptual metonymies (i.e., EXCITEMENT FOR ORGASM, SWELLING FOR ORGASM, and HEAT FOR ORGASM); and related concepts (i.e., (FEELING OF) SATISFACTION and (FEELING OF) PLEASURE).”

Here’s are two further chunks of details from the study:



(Thanks to Dor Abrahamson for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: A performance of the song “Behold, I Am Coming Soon!”:

Belgian sporting earthquake measurements project

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Scientists in Belgium are methodically measuring the effects of soccer games on the oscillation of the earth. Lieven Scheire alerted us, saying “our seismic institute is measuring small earthquakes every time our national soccer team scores at the european championships.

The image you (probably) see below documents seismic activity from a recent match between Hungary and Belgium. (Belgium won the match, 4-0). The institute explains:

“4-0 ! This picture shows the seismic record of the Uccle Surface station. The first goal is not clearly visible, but the three next triggered a big energy release! Goal-quakes! Belgian Red Devils.”


Sagging pants and the logic of abductive inference

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Saggy-PantsNot all that many academic studies have examined the possibilities of abductive inference with regard to sagging pants [sagging trousers (UK)]. There are exceptions though. Professor Marcia Morgado of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa has a paper in the journal Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion (Volume 2 Issue 2-3, September 2015) which:

“[…] explores the usefulness of abductive inference as a conceptual scheme and as a model for thinking about thinking.”

It’s entitled: Uncovered butts and recovered rules: Sagging pants and the logic of abductive inference.

“Peirce’s thesis on abductive inference, which addresses the logic of inferential thinking, frames an interpretive study of a text of heated public arguments that surrounded sagging during its rise as a highly transgressive and controversial subculture appearance form. On the assumption that I could do so, I consciously reconstructed the logic of my inferences, framing these on Peirce’s premise that interpretation begins with an observation (the result) and proceeds to a conclusion regarding meaning (the case) by intuiting a relationship (a hypothesized rule) between the observation and what it appears to mean. The abductions reveal that my inferences were constructed on conventional rules derived from common clichés, principles drawn from scholarly works on the social-psychology of dress, and ordinary marketplace wisdom.”

Image: A partial view of Stop The Sag – Raise Your Pants, Raise Your Image’ as provided by The New York State Senate newsroom.

A song for the peoples of Britain, in their hour of dismay

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

This song, called “Harmonious Misunderstanding”, is the thrilling conclusion to “The Jargon Opera“. The mini-opera premiered as part of the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, at Harvard University. That first performance starred singers Margot Button, Jane Tankersley, and Michelle French, and pianist Greg Neil — accompanied gamely by Nobel Laureates Richard Roberts, William Lipscomb, and Dudley Herschbach, and David King, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Government. Karen Hopkin narrated. The song was subsequently performed at many Ig Nobel events in the United Kingdom.

Click on this image to see video of that historic first performance. Below are the words to the song.


[MUSIC: Arne’s “Rule, Britannia”. Words by Marc Abrahams.]

They say that better understanding
Would… make us thrive.
But if we knew what others truly want,
We might not wish them to stay alive.
Mis-under-standing may be the thing
That lets us survive.
True understanding… turns people rather shrill.
It really, really, really, makes them want to kill!

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!

The Mid-East hag-gl-ing for peace is
Go-ing to fail
‘Till open, clear communication ceases,
As at Harvard, or even Yale.
The trick to dick-er-ing is to fudge on ev’ry detail.
Mis-under-standing… that’s mutu’lly assured
Some-how lets any major diff’rence be endured.

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!

The his-to-ry of every nation
Hither and yon,
Is basic’ly a simple compilation
Of how babble defeated brawn.
All armies get exhausted, but jargon just jabbers on.
Jargon is better… than anything around.
It makes your en-e-my suspect his mind’s unsound.

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!

The Klingons often fired a phaser
At Captain Kirk.
But Kirk was such a powerful re-phraser
His words made all of them berserk.
The Klingons always fled because they thought, “He’s such a jerk.”
Jargon is better… than anything in space.
It tri-umphs over a con-vention-al arms race.

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!

Harmo-ni-ous misunderstanding —
That’s what we need.
Our leaders must use jargon in demanding
We pretend they know how to lead.
Our children must learn jargon before we teach them to read.
True understanding… makes people rather ill —
They’d really, really, really, rather lis-ten to swill!

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!

Hail to jargon!
‘Tis so eu-pho-ni-ous!
Jar-gon makes misunderstanding harmo’nious!!

BONUS FACT: The 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was preceded by a concert by a then-fledgling musical group called the Dresden Dolls.

Insiders’ Tell-All About the Dicty World Races

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Scientists are not above, nor are they below, indulging in the sport of racing. This new study tells how a bunch of scientists arranged for a bunch of cells to race.

A Worldwide Competition to Compare the Speed and Chemotactic Accuracy of Neutrophil-Like Cells,” Monica Skoge, Elisabeth Wong, Bashar Hamza, Albert Bae, Joseph Martel, Rama Kataria, Ineke Keizer-Gunnink, Arjan Kortholt, Peter J. M. Van Haastert, Guillaume Charras, Christopher Janetopoulos, Daniel Irimia, PLoS ONE 11(6), 2016: e0154491.  The authors report:


“Chemotaxis is the ability to migrate towards the source of chemical gradients…. Because of the complexity of human genetics, Dictyostelium [whose ability to solve puzzles has led to two Ig Nobel Prizes, so far]] and HL60 cells have long served as models system for studying chemotaxis. Since many of our current insights into chemotaxis have been gained from these two model systems, we decided to compare them side by side in a set of winner-take-all races, the Dicty World Races. These worldwide competitions challenge researchers to genetically engineer and pharmacologically enhance the model systems to compete in microfluidic racecourses. These races bring together technological innovations in genetic engineering and precision measurement of cell motility. Fourteen teams participated in the inaugural Dicty World Race 2014 and contributed cell lines, which they tuned for enhanced speed and chemotactic accuracy. The race enabled large-scale analyses of chemotaxis in complex environments and revealed an intriguing balance of speed and accuracy of the model cell lines.”

David Schulzs, writing in Science magazine, profiles the competition. Here’s a promotional video, released two years ago, touting the race:

And here’s video of one of the winners:

(Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.)