Archive for 'Arts and science'

Ig Nobel at Imperial College London, Friday evening

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The big Ig Nobel show at Imperial College London happens Friday evening, March 17, 2017, starting at 6 pm.

WHERE: IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, UK — in The Great Hall, the Sherfield Building, South Kensington campus. TICKETS: The event is booked full.. But… some seats are likely to become available at the last minute or so. If you arrive at the Great Hall a bit early and take your chances, you just might be able to get a ticket.

It features: Marc Abrahams / Ig Nobel Prize winners Raghavendra Rau (some business leaders acquire a taste for disasters that do not affect them personally), Thomas Thwaites (living as a goat), Elizabeth Oberzaucher (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children) / the QI Elves doing dramatic readings from bizarre-seeming research studies / David Kilgour explaining why Britain’s Ministry of Defence is so, um, efficient.

Details of that show and the entire Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour, are on our events page.

Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™ announces when it will announce it’s 2017 Woman & Man of the Year

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) proudly announced its 2017 Man Of The Year back in January. Now it proudly announces WHEN it will announce the 2017 Woman of the Year.

2017 MAN of The Year – an Experimental Physicist at Case Western Reserve University, researching cosmic rays – was announced on Friday, January 13th from the stage at Arisia. His name is Prof. Corbin Covault.
(Learn more about Man-of-The-Year Corbin Covault).

2017 WOMAN of The Year will be announced on March 24th at the University of Oslo Ig event (4:00pm start time). She will be there to display her luxurious flowing hair, and to make any remarks she wishes to make about her research, her hair, and what she thinks of the Woman of the Year title.

LFHCfS 2017 Man and Woman of the Year (Woman To be announced March 24th)

Only The 5th Time Awarded
The Woman and Man of the Year titles have each been given only 4 times before – in 2002/3, 204/5, 2015, and 2016. Details on all past honorees are available in the LFHCfS website.

Scientists with luxuriant hair have been with us for millennia. Find more details on club members, on the Historical Honorary Members, and on how to become a member yourself, all in the LFHCfS website.

Girls in books, statistically

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Emily St. John Mandel [pictured here], a former girl, who writes books, analyzed data about the many of the characters who are specifically identified as a “girl” in the title of a book. Mandel wrote up her findings for the FiveThirtyEight web site:

The Gone Girl With The Dragon Tattoo On The Train — Why are there so many books with “girl” in the title?” by Emily St. John Mandel.

Who are these girls? Why are there so many of them? Books with “girl” in the titles make up a tiny fraction of all the books published in a given year, but they appear again and again on the bestseller lists. Other people have written about this trend, often with great eloquence, but none of them were backed by a data set. Using the database at Goodreads, the popular social networking website for readers, we set out to change that. A number of patterns emerged in our analysis: The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead….

(Thanks to John Tyska for bringing this to our attention.)

Generalizing Keeler’s theorem (a.k.a. The Futurama Theorem)

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Theorem 1. Let n ∈ N, n ≥ 2. The inverse of any permutation in Sn can be written as a product of distinct transpositions in Sn+2 \ Sn.

Mathematically inclined aficionados of the cult animation series Futurama will no doubt recognise the theorem above – it was first posited by Ken Keeler in the 2010 Writers Guild* Award-winning episode ‘The Prisoner of Benda’.

Professor Farnsworth and Amy build a machine that can swap the brains of any two people. The two use the machine to swap brains with each other, but then discover that once two people have swapped with each other, the machine does not swap them back. More characters get involved until the group is thoroughly mixed up, and they start looking for ways to return to their own heads.”

– explain researchers Jennifer Elder and Professor Oscar Vega [pictured] at the Department of Mathematics, Fresno State University, US.

“Clearly, the problem of undoing what the machine has done may be studied using permutations; each brain swap can be described by a transposition in Sn, where n is the number of characters involved in the brain-swapping.”

As a result of their permutational analyses, the team conclude that :

“ – as long as the brain-swapping machine Professor Farnsworth and Amy build swaps a prime number of brains cyclically, they can always fix the chaos created by incorporating enough extra characters to the mix.”

Their paper ‘Generalizing the Futurama Theorem’ in arXiv:1608.04809v1 [math.GR] can be read in full here.

* Note: The Writers Guild is officially apostrophe-less.

The RAT Trace, the CAT Trace, and the MAN Trace

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Say “rat”, say “cat”, and say “man”. Then read this study, if you want to:

Phonological similarity and trace degradation in the serial recall task: when CAT helps RAT, but not MAN,” Anthony B. Fallon, Kim Groves, and, Gerald Tehan, International Journal of Psychology, vol. 34, nos. 5/6, 1999, pp. 301-307.

The photo, warped though it appears to be, is of co-author Tehan.

BONUS: But, but, but… if you feel you are stuck in a rat race, yet you yearn to know more about rat traces, try this study: “Amphetamine, 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, and metabolites of the catecholamine neurotransmitters are agonists of a rat trace amine receptor,” James R. Bunzow, Mark S. Sonders, Seksiri Arttamangkul, Laura M. Harrison, G. E. Zhang, Denise I. Quigley, Tristan Darland et al.,  Molecular Pharmacology 60, no. 6 (2001): 1181-1188.