Archive for 'Arts and science'

LIMERICK CONTEST: Cigarettes in a Milkshake

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

This month’s contest — Devise a pleasing limerick that encapsulates this study:

The Smoking Milkshake,” Jennifer Thomas and Paul E. Luebbers, American Journal of Health Education, vol. 40, no. 6, 2009, pp. 322-328. The authors, at Emporia State University, explain:

“Cigarettes can have many ingredients. Philip Morris, the nations largest cigarette manufacturer, uses over 200 ingredients in the production of their cigarettes (Figure 1). Distribute the Cigarette Ingredients/Effects Worksheet (Figure 3), and explain that using several of the listed ingredients, they, as a class, will assist the teacher in making a ‘Smoking Milkshake.’ ”

(This limerick contest appears in the May 2017 issue of mini-AIR, our newsletter of bits too tiny to fit in the magazine. A new limerick contest appears every month. You can sign up to receive mini-AIR by email, if you like!)

No Baby Boom Following Fifty Shades of Grey

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Anticipation caused by the book Fifty Shades of Grey (and its sequels) may have led to disappointment, suggests this new medical report:

No baby booms or birth sex ratio changes following Fifty Shades of Grey in the United States,” Victor Grech, Early Human Development, vol. 110, July 2017, pp. 16-20. The author, at Mater Dei Hospital, Malta, reports:

“The Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG) trilogy were publicised by the media as inflaming increased coital activity, and that this would result a baby boom. Furthermore, increased coital activity skews the sex ratio at birth (M/T) toward male births. This study was carried out in order to ascertain whether there were any spikes in total births or in M/T in the United States (US) circa nine months following the FSOG books.”

Grech obtained and interpreted a large amount of childbirth data:

“Monthly male and female births for the US were obtained directly from the website of the Centre for Disease Control (01/2007–12/2015). This study analysed 36,499,163 live births (M/T 0.5117, 95% CI 0.5116–0.5119). There are no discernible spikes in total births or M/T at annual level, or circa nine months after FSOG book releases i.e. 04/2012 and 01/2013….”

Grech draws a conclusion:

“This study highlights the importance of measurement of cause and effect since anticipated results may not always ensue from events.”

(Thanks to Gwinyai Masukume for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Victor Grech is also known for his study “Infertility in Star Trek.”

The rise of “jaw-dropping”

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The phrase “jaw-dropping” has risen, with jaw-dropping suddenness, in recent times. We ran a Google Ngram data crunch. Here’s the result:

The jaw-dropping rise began in the 1980s. Here’s a look at the portion of that same graph, beginning with the 1970’s  (the 1970’s itself was an era of jaw-droppingly small usage of the phrase “jaw-dropping”):

BONUS: A medical research report called “Dropped jaw—mandibular neurapraxia in the dog” was published in 1976, in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

An invention for deterring monsters, specters, demons, and the like

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Devices and implements for deterring monsters, specters, demons, and the like,” is the title of a US patent application 13364587, Filed February 2, 2012 by Kevin M. Crucs of sparsely populated Copley, Ohio, USA. The patent document contains copious details. Among them:

“Devices and implements for staving off monsters, specters, demons and the like as imagined by a child at bedtime. A hand-held controller unit is provided having a user interface, which is capable of being used by the child under the bed covers of a bed. The hand-held controller unit may include any of a walkie-talkie capability, a flashlight capability, a nightlight capability, the capability to activate an external device, and other capabilities. At least one external device may be provided which is capable of being placed beneath the bed and is configured to be activated by the hand-held controller unit. At least one substantially hollow air-through member may be provided which is configured to facilitate airflow between underneath the bed covers of the bed and above the bed covers of the bed. A supplemental bed cover may be provided that is configured to be placed on the bed.”

Foster’s six defenses for legal obscurity

Monday, May 8th, 2017

“There are many bad reasons for legal writing that is impenetrable to the layman (e.g., where writing is made impenetrable in order to necessitate recourse to lawyers which would otherwise be unnecessary, or where impenetrability is a consequence of antiquated language perpetuated purely out of sentimental conservatism).”

– writes Charles Foster (co-recipient of the 2016 Ig Nobel Biology Prize). Nevertheless, he also alerts us to possible defenses for legal obscurity. Six in all – which are:

▪ IT CAN CONVEY MEANING SUCCINCTLY

▪ IT ENABLES NUANCED REGULATION OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES

▪ IT CAN HELP TO CONVEY MEANING ACCURATELY, AND THUS AVOID LITIGATION

▪ IT CAN ENCOURAGE LAY PEOPLE TO TAKE LEGAL ADVICE IN CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THAT IS BENEFICIAL

▪ IT ENCOURAGES EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LAWYERS

▪ IT EMPHASIZES THE AUTHORITY AND OBJECTIVITY OF THE LAW

See: ‘In Defense of Legal Obscurity’ published in the journal AJOB Neuroscience, volume 8, 2017, Pages: 39-41.

For another view on language clarity (or otherwise) see ‘Say no to unclear language, don’t believe the hype’ by Anu Vallinkoski,  as featured in the Journal of the University of Helsinki, 24.2.2017.