Archive for 'Arts and science'

Where that (scientifical/business) jargon, much of it, came from

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

“They did develop distinctive, pseudo-scientific language to pitch themselves to clients…”, explains Emma Green as she rough-sketches a history of modern business jargon, in The Atlantic. (Thanks to Mariette DiChristina for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: The Jargon Opera premiered as part of the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. The opera concludes with the song “Harmonious Misunderstanding”. Here are the lyrics to that song:

[MUSIC: Arne's "Rule, Britannia"]

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!!

This video shows a spirited, very British performance of the song “Rule Britannia” with its original words. You might enjoy playing the recording whilst you yourself sing the new lyrics at your highest volume:

BONUS: Here’s video of the entire 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. This video begins with the special pre-ceremony concert by the Dresden Dolls:

(The song “Harmonious Misunderstanding” was performed near the end of the ceremony, at about the 1:20 mark in the video.)

Observing praying mantises in 3D glasses hanging topsy-turvey

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

One approach to try “to understand 3D vision in the praying mantis, the only invertebrate known to have this ability, and compare it with vision in humans” is to equip a mantis with specially-built tiny 3-D glasses, suspend the spectacles-clad mantis upside down from a post, and then monitor that mantis’s response to artificially created images that mimic the motion of other insects. Jenny ReedVivek Nityananda, and several of their colleagues at Newcastle University took exactly this approach. They blog about it. This video shows some of what they have done and found:

A Newcastle U press release offers further bits of detail about the mantis viewing viewing. Justin Scuiletti at PBS Newshour did a report about it.

Newcastle University is ever abuzz with stimulated and stimulating research about insect vision. The 2005 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Newcastle scientists Claire Rind and Peter Simmons for electrically monitoring the activity of a brain cell in a locust while that locust was watching selected highlights from the movie “Star Wars.” [Their work is documented in the study "Orthopteran DCMD Neuron: A Reevaluation of Responses to Moving Objects. I. Selective Responses to Approaching Objects," F.C. Rind and P.J. Simmons, Journal of Neurophysiology, vol. 68, no. 5, November 1992, pp. 1654-66.]

A convoluted way to say “Hi”

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

The Walking Randomly blog tells this tale:

One website I came across (I have lost the link unfortunately) suggested that you get something interesting looking if you plot the following equation over the region -3<x<3, -5<y<5. It also suggested that you should only plot the z values in the range 0<z<0.001.

\light f(x,y)=e^{-x^2-\frac{y^2}{2}} \cos (4 x)+e^{-3<br /> \left((x+0.5)^2+\frac{y^2}{2}\right)}

Suitably intrigued, I issued the required Mathematica commands and got the plot below which spoke to me in a way that no equation ever has before.

(Thanks to investigator Phoebe Shitaka for bringing this to our attention.)

Penguin sweater target reached

Friday, April 25th, 2014


Thanks to generous contributions, the Penguin Foundation, of Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia, now no longer requires volunteers to knit sweaters for penguins. [that's 'jumpers' in the UK, Australia, N.Z., Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Jersey &etc.]

“Please know that we do not urgently require little penguin jumpers for rehabilitation, we have a good supply of these which we use on any rescued oiled penguins and in the event of an oil spill, these jumpers are also sent to other wildlife rescue centres if required.”

For those who might like to knit a penguin jumper for themselves on their own behalf (or for another creature of similar form and dimensions) the foundation are still providing a knitting pattern, which can be downloaded for free here.

Also see: (Improbable Research, Oct. 2013) ‘A Wetsuit for a Penguin’


Improbability / Ig Nobel Prizes at NIST Friday (am), NYC (pm)

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Two (2) Ig Nobel events on the same day, in different cities:

Ig Nobel chemistry prize winner Theo Gray (inventor of the four-legged periodic table table) can and and will (thanks to some happy coincidences) join me in doing a talk at NIST, in Gaithersburg, Maryland on Friday morning, April 25, at 10:30.

Friday evening, I will be appearing a few hundred miles north of there, as part of the Lost Lectures, at a somewhat secret site in New York City. (Theo will not be part of that, but another Ig Nobel personage will.)