Archive for 'Arts and science'

Reinforcing stereotypes: Are men more mechanically adept? [with condoms]

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

richard_crosbyThis study stands to reinforce several stereotypes, one of which deals with women’s vs. men’s mechanical abilities:

Condoms are more effective when applied by males: a study of young black males in the United States,” Richard A. Crosby [pictured here], et al., Annals of Epidemiology, vol. 24, 2014, pp 868-70. The authors, at the University of Kentucky, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, the University of Guelph, Indiana University, and the University of Southampton, explain:

“When it comes to contraception, leave it to the men!
Couples may often argue over whose responsibility it is to ‘take precautions’, but it’s fair to say the blame falls on both. Research published in Annals of Epidemiology investigated whether the female application of male condoms during intercourse is associated with higher or lower rates of breakage or slippage. In just under half (43.5%) of cases, young males who regularly let their female partners apply condoms reported one or more instances of breakage or slippage, compared with just 27% of those males who more regularly chose to apply it themselves. The findings suggest the need for education to focus on improving young women’s application and use of condoms.”

Winds overpower ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ competition

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

nagendra_uma_260This year’s Dance Your Ph.D competition produced a winner: Uma Nagendra (pictured here) of the University of Georgia, USA, for her dance about some effects of winds on plants:

John Bohannon, who founded and runs the competition, provides details about all the high finishers, in Science magazine. The list of runners-up, with links to each of those videos, appears in that column. This was, I believe, the first year that anyone entered a dance video about mayonnaise. The mayo video, by Saioa Alvarez of the University of the Basque Country, Spain, won in the chemistry category:

I again this year had the delight of being one of the judges. Congratulations to all the entrants, who collectively danced, choreographed, filmed and edited their hearts, lungs, atoms, electrons, and pretty much everything else off, in creating their entries.

The intensifier ‘ass’, in snippets

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

snippets journal publishes notes that contribute to the study of syntax and DanielSiddiqisemantics in generative grammar. The notes are brief, self-contained and explicit. For an example of the content, can we recommend a 2011 paper by Professor Daniel Siddiqi (Carlton University, US) who examines the ‘ass’ intensifier.

“English has recently developed a new intensifier, ass, which means something very close to very, is marked as vulgar and colloquial, and appears in cases such as in (1):

a.That is a big-ass chair
b. It is a cold-ass night
c. It is freezing-ass cold”

Ass has a restriction that it appear with phonology on either side, suggesting that it is an infix. However, unlike other infixes, ass`s restrictions on its distribution are that it requires syntactic heads (in the same phrase) to be on either side of it. This, of course, seems to be a standard case of tmesis, but tmesis , on a morpho-syntactic level, is typically constrained to compound nouns or morphologically complex words (suggesting morpho-phonemic restriction). This suggests that ass infixation does not seem to be typical tmesis either. This makes the English intensifier ass a curious SYNTACTIC infix, perhaps providing more evidence for a sophisticated morphology-syntax interface.“

See: The English intensifier ass ‘ in: snippets, issue 23, May 2011.

• The lower-case ‘s’ in snippets is intentional.
‘Tmesis’ is defined (in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828) thus:

Tme”sis (?), n. [L., from Gr. a cutting, fr. to cut.] (Gram.) The separation of the parts of a compound word by the intervention of one or more words; as, in what place soever, for whatsoever place.

Also see: (only loosely, if at all, related) Dr. Gillis’s Kick Butt™ ball.

A mile of pi, unrolled on an airport landing strip

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

If you print out the first million digits of the number pi, on a piece of paper a mile (slightly more than a mile, really) long, then unroll the paper, you will see something like what you see in this video made by Brady Haran for NumberPhile:

‘WIILTBA’ (bat! rat! rock!) questions – a partial listing

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Prof_NagelThis month it’s (roughly) the 40th anniversary of the publication of Professor Emeritus Thomas Nagel‘s now-famous philosophical essay entitled : What Is It Like To Be a Bat? ( Philosophical Review, 83, no. 4 )

Since then, a considerable number of other academic writers, researchers and philosophers have paid tribute to professor Nagel’s bat paper (be it intentionally or not) by using similar titles for their compositions. Here are some examples of so-called ‘WIILTBA’ questions: (listed, roughly, according to the number of syllables).

What is it like to be a –

• rat?
• rock?
• bot?
• god?
• quark?
• cell?
• group?
• human?
• person?
• peahen?
• zombie?
• bachelor?
• dualist?
• Chinese room?
• synesthete?
• butterfly?
• geologist?
• generalist?
• school principal?
• musicologist?
• PhD student?
• phenomenologist?
• person who knows nothing?
• deflationary theory of meaning?
• solicitor in commerce and industry?
• special librarian at the center for creative leadership?