Archive for 'Arts and science'

A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Pokémon scholarship reached its height with the study “A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon“,  by Matan Shelomi, Andrew Richards, Ivana Li, and Yukinari Okido, which was published in the Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 18, no 4, June/July 2012. Here’s a bit of detail from that study (click on the image to see the entire study):


Aggie TV interviewed three of the researchers:

Their institution, The University of California, Davis, wrote about the study and its impact.

Pokémon is the latest once-obscure academic topic to become wildly popular (thanks in this case to the Pokémon Go app) with the public.

Thanks to the Pokémon Go app, Pokémon characters now inhabit many academic institutions. Here is an action photo taken this week at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam (the institution famed for its role in Dead Duck Day):



Is Pilates a racial enclave or implicator of whiteness?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Jerry Coyne, writing on the blog Evolution is True, is hopped up about a study about hips. Coyne says:

The author proceeds to demonstrate that Pilates is “the embodiment of whiteness,” using just the two Pilates exercises named in the abstract. These exercises, she claims, “purposely train the body to stabilize the pelvis”, which she considers racist.

The study is: “The Pilates Pelvis: Racial Implications of the Immobile Hips,” Sarah W. Holmes, Dance Research Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, August 2014, pp 57-72. The author, at the University of New Mexico, explains:


This article examines the treatment of the pelvis in the Pilates exercises ‘Single Leg Stretch’ and ‘Leg Circles.’ The teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially “white” aesthetic. Central to this article is the troubling notion of white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors. Using the two Pilates exercises, I illuminate how perceived kinesthetic understandings of race in the body may be normalized and privileged. By examining the intersections between dance and Pilates history, this article reveals the ways embodied discourses in Pilates are ‘white’ in nature, and situates Pilates as a product of historically constructed social behaviors of dominant Anglo-European culture.

(Thanks to Jane Evans for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s a Pilates video from the White Cloud Pilates Studio:

Hot Rod Magazines — A harmless diversion for teens? [podcast 72]

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The danger posed by reading hot rod magazines — in the opinion of at least one English teacher — screeches, metaphorically, throughout this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

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This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by Harvard physics professor Melissa Franklin — tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

Spence: Come to your (combined) senses!

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Charles Spence stars in this new short video about sensibility about senses:


The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition was awarded to Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is. [They describe that research in the study “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness ofPotato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.]

Apple’s new anti-photog patent, and prior paparazzi-blocking tech

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Apple’s new patent for (among other things) blocking photography by audience members is not a new idea. The idea harks back to — but does not mention — an earlier anti-paparazzi patent by Wilbert Leon Smith, Jr. and Keelo Lamance Jackson.

Benjamin Boles, writing for the web site Thump, explains about Apple’s idea, in a report headlined “A Tech Expert Explains What Apple’s Camera Blocking Patent Means for Concertgoers“:

While the technology has a wide variety of potential uses, perhaps most notably for blocking cameras and video recordings at concerts and other events, fears were also sparked that it could be used to suppress documenting incidents involving police violence.

In 2013 we described the earlier patent, which is based on an even earlier patent, in a report in The Guardian called “Flashy ways to fight off paparazzi, spies … and anyone else“. It begins:

A new invention aims to foil paparazzi who try to photograph people who do not wish to be photographed. Wilbert Leon Smith, Jr. and Keelo Lamance Jackson of California obtained a patent last year for what they call “Inhibiting Unwanted Photography and Video Recording”. Their invention builds on a simple idea patented in 2005 by Jeremy and Joseph Caulfield from Arizona.

The Caulfields equipped celebs with a flashgun that fires automatically the instant another flashgun fires nearby. Smith and Jackson’s device goes that bit better: it’s a rotating, swivelling, oscillating device that can emit multiple strobe lights and other light beams for as long as the celebrity deems necessary.

The device has uses beyond deterring pesky paparazzi. As Smith and Jackson explain, it can also protect our own spy agencies against nosy foreign bad guys…

Here is a technical drawing from the Smith/Jackson anti-paparazzi patent:


BONUS: Martin Gardiner’s earlier report on the Smith/Jackson anti-paparazzi patent.