Archive for 'Arts and science'

Urination, free will, and the John Templeton Foundation

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

What kind of research is funded by the John Templeton Foundation, you might ask. This kind:

Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions,” Michael R. Ent, Roy F. BaumeisterConsciousness and Cognition, vol. 27, July 2014, pp. 147–154. The authors write:

The present research suggests that…  The more intensely people felt… the urge to urinate, the less they believed in free will….

This work was supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

Daniel Chastinet’s cornucopiac Ig Nobel drawings

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Brazilian artist Daniel Chastinet shows off, on the web, some of the drawings he did for a a Revista Super Interessante article, in 2013, about the “backstage” aspects of the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s one of those drawings, which packs in a remarkable number of aspects of the Ig Nobel ceremony and some of the winners:



Breakthroughs in boredom

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

People who design apps — or, for that matter, design startup companies — want their creations to elicit excitement. They (usually) design to avoid creating boredom. A fairly recent Canadian study offers exciting insights into the nature of boredom.

Designers take heed!

The study is “The Unengaged Mind: Defining Boredom in Terms of Attention,” John D. Eastwood, Alexandra Frischen, Mark J. Fenske and Daniel SmilekPerspectives on Psychological Science, 2012….

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

People who squirm when seeing squirming or non-squirming eel

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Jellied-EelsA description of the behaviour and general demeanour of eels might well include the word ‘squirm‘. But it’s not just eels which squirm, humans do too, sometimes when observing eels. Dr Alex Rhys-Taylor BSc, MA, PhD, PGCert, of Goldsmith’s College, London, describes such a scenario in ‘Disgust and Distinction: The case of the jellied eel.’ The Sociological Review, 61(2), pp. 227-246, May 2013.

His ethnological research, carried out while “hanging around at a seafood stand in east London”, explores customers’ and bystanders’ reactions to seeing copious quantities of eels – jellied and otherwise.

“First, it must be noted that on a general level, any favour or smell has the potential to turn the stomach. Smells and tastes by their very nature, smudge a very important taxonomic division disturbing, by way of bodily orifces, a simultaneously psychic and physical sense of corporeal ‘inside’ and ‘out’ (Grosz 1994, 192-198). It is perhaps because smells and food necessarily disrupts this foundational boundary that Kristeva claims that ‘food loathing is … the most elementary form of abjection’
(1982, 4). Yet we know that not all food induces gut-wrenching squirms. Rather, only the movement of certain tastes and textures into the mouth, or smells through the nose, result in the convulsion that ripples from stomach to lips and across the face. The distribution of these squirms, I will argue below, is partially predicated on the particular classifcatory systems through which we sort our every day sensory experiences.”

Further reading :Eels and Humans‘ (Springer Verlag, Japan, 2014)

BONUS: ‘Jellied Eels’  (by Lionel Bart – performed by Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, 1960, Decca Records)


Battle over a library’s use of an Ig Nobel Prize-winning teenager-repellant

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

People are displeased that a Welsh town’s library installed an Ig Nobel Prize-winning device designed to repel teenagers.

mosquitoBACKGROUND: The 2006 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant — a device that makes annoying high-pitched noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but probably not to their teachers. The invention is sold under the brand name “The Mosquito.”

BACKGROUND: Stapleton’s company, Compound Security, also developed a version of that same technology for a sort-of opposite purpose — for teenagers to use against older people. This alternate product is a telephone ring tone so high-pitched that elders (schoolteachers, for example) probably cannot hear teenagers receiving telephone calls (in classrooms, in that same example). Compound Security thus became like the great armaments manufacturers of old, selling arms to both sides.

Now, the Milford & West Wales Mercury, reports:

A LOCAL campaigner is hoping a meeting this Friday (August 15) will result in a controversial anti-teen alarm being removed from outside Milford Haven Library.

Gareth Bromhall, from Milford Haven, is meeting with building owners the Port of Milford Haven at the site, to discuss the future of the ‘Mosquito’ alarm currently in place there.

The alarm was installed by the Port in 2012, following ‘thousands of pounds worth of damage to its property’ and complaints by tenants and members of the public about anti-social behaviour….

milford-haven-libraryDetails of the oust-the-mosquito-from-the-library campaign are online. Here’s the possibly-affiliated Facebook page.

The Milford Haven Library [pictured here] is having what it calls a “Summer Reading Challenge 2014“.

Here’s a TV report about The Mosquito, broadcast on the American “Nightline” program in 2009:

Here’s a British report, of roughly that same vintage: