Archive for 'Arts and science'

Relative Finger Lengths and Russian Wages

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

The famous “invisible hand” of economics is made visible in part — that part being the relative lengths of some of the fingers of laborers in Russia — in a newly published study.

The study is: “The Effects of Prenatal Testosterone on Wages: Evidence from Russia,” John V.C. Nye, Maksym Bryukhanov, Ekaterina Kochergina, Ekaterina Orel, Sergiy Polyachenko, Maria Yudkevich, Economics and Human Biology, vol. 24, 2017, pp. 43-60.

The authors, at George Mason University, USA, and National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, explain:

“the relative length of the second to the fourth finger (2D:4D)… Though we do not yet understand the exact biological mechanisms… This paper uses a sample of working-age respondents from Moscow and the Moscow region to establish that [lower 2D:4D ratios] is clearly correlated with higher earnings for both women and men once controlling for factors such as age, education, and occupation.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


Next time you run into a professional economist, ask about this discovery. If you yourself are a professional economist, we would enjoy hearing how this discovery will change the way you understand the world economy.

NEXT BLOG POST: How is Scrabble like a dead salmon?

A telling typo: High Hell Shoes

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

A typographical error, like a Freudian slip, can sometimes reveal a hidden truth. An example — the phrase “high hell shoes” — appears in this medical study:

Evaluation of the influence of low and high heel shoes on erector spine muscle bioelectrical activity assessed at baseline and during movement,” Anna Mika, Łukasz Oleksy, Edyta Mikołajczyk, Anna Marchewka, Medical Rehabilitation, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 1-10. The authors, at the University School of Physical Education in Cracow, and the The McKenzie Institute Poland, write:

Results: A statistically significant increase in erector spine activity was observed in Trunk Flexion and during Flexion-Relaxation Position when wearing high hell shoes….

Conclusion: The prolonged wearing of shoes with stiletto type low and high heels by individuals without back pain is not safe for their spine and may lead to chronic paraspinal muscle fatigue.

Here’s some visual detail from the study:


(Thanks to Aleksandra Przegalinska for bringing this to our attention.)

NEXT POST: Where are finger lengths tied to salaries?

Galam’s Work on Galam Models (Reviewed by Galam)

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

In 2008, French physicist Serge Galam wrote a review article about “Galam models,” in which he cited 71 papers, all of which were written or cowritten by him.

                Serge Galam

Galam specializes in a topic known as “social physics” (or “sociophysics” for short), an area of complex systems that concerns the use of ideas and tools from physics to study collective social phenomena. Amidst the modern data deluge, sociophysics has become a very popular research area during the past decades, although the idea dates back multiple centuries and the term was first used more than two hundred years ago by French philosopher August Comte (1798–1857, credited as the founder of sociology).

There are numerous models in the physical study of social phenomena, and Galam reviewed the specific family of them known as “Galam models” in the article Sociophysics: A Review of Galam Models (available in published form at this website). The first sentence of the abstract provides a terse summary of the article’s contents: “We review a series of models of sociophysics introduced by Galam and Galam et al. in the last 25 years.” Below we excerpt the reference list (from the arXiv preprint of the paper) and show about half of the references.

The second half of the 71 references, each authored or coauthored by Serge Galam, in Serge Galam's review article on Galam models.

The second half of the 71 references, each authored or coauthored by S. Galam, in Serge Galam’s review article on Galam models.

Thanks to investigator Renaud Lambiotte for bringing this paper to our attention.

NEXT POST: Mistaken hell on a shoe?

Joseph’s Rube Goldberg machine for roasting a turkey

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Here is Joseph. Joseph built a Rube Goldberg machine to roast a turkey. Joseph made a video of his Rube Goldberg machine roasting a turkey. This is that video:


(Thanks to Sarah Smith for bringing this to our attention.)

NEXT POST: Why did they smell the unwashed jeans?

Influential imaginary scientists, in this time of influential imaginary facts

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Why Fake Data When You Can Fake a Scientist?
Making up names and CVs is one of the latest tricks to game scientific metrics

That’s the headline on an article in Nautilus magazine, written by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky. Here’s part of the article:

…The fact is that professional advancement for scientists around the world is becoming more and more challenging in an era of ever-scarcer funding for research and tightening competition for faculty spots. To succeed in the publish-or-perish environment of academia, most scientists hit the lab and play within the rules. Others, though, hatch schemes….

[One] of today’s most direct new frauds is incredibly simple: Make up new people.

Jesus Angel Lemus is a Spanish veterinary researcher who has lost 13 papers to retraction over concerns about the veracity of his data. That part’s not so unusual—even 13 retractions doesn’t put Lemus among the top 30 researchers for retractions. What makes Lemus interesting is that he appears to have created a fictional co-author for five of his articles, one “Javier Grande” (big Xavier, whose vague affiliations, ironically enough, made him a big man on campus at the University of Castilla-La Mancha). It’s difficult to understand why, although bulking up author lists is one way to increase the apparent credibility of a study, particularly if they’re from a prestigious—or prestigious-sounding—institution….