Archive for 'Arts and science'

Farewell, bagel-making machine inventor

Monday, September 21st, 2015

The New York Times brings sad news:

Daniel Thompson, Whose Bagel Machine Altered the American Diet, Dies at 94

22THOMPSON-OBIT1-master675Daniel Thompson, who five decades ago automated the arcane art of bagel making, a development — seen variously as saving grace and sacrilege — that has sent billions of mass-produced bagels raining down on the American heartland, died on Sept. 3 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 94. His family announced the death last week.

A California math teacher turned inventor, Mr. Thompson was a shaper of postwar suburban culture in more than one respect: He also created the first wheeled, folding Ping-Pong table, a fixture of American basements from the mid-20th century onward.

But it was for the bagel machine that Mr. Thompson remained best known. The invention changed the American diet…

Mr. Thompson obtained several patents, over a long span of years, for devices and methods for making bagels. His earliest, U.S. patent #2584514, was granted in 1952, for an “apparatus for making a toroid“. Here’s some detail from the patent:

“Apparatus for making a toroid,” U.S. 2584514, granted to Meyer Thompson and Daniel Thompson, priority December 9, 1947.


“This invention relates to apparatus for form ing plastic, deformable, pliant, compositions such as dough into the shape of a toroid. Machines have heretofore been provided for forming dough. into the shape of a toroid, such as doughnut machines. However, the dough of certain products, such as that known as bagels, is of such a heavy, tough, elastic consistency that it can not be handled on doughnut machines and it has heretofore been necessary to form the bagel dough by hand. The dough is first rolled into cylindrical form and turned about the fingers of the operator to form a toroid with the ends overlapping. Then the overlapping ends are hand rolled into pressed, meshing, consolidated, integral relation, forming the toroid. This manner of manually forming the dough into a toroid is not only slow and in eficient, but due to the rolling of the overlapping ends, the result is an irregular deformed toroid. It is, therefore, the primary object of this invention to provide apparatus for forming dough into circular toroid shape.”

Surgical pathology and bird-watching – compare and contrast

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Prof_BewtraChhanda Bewtra, M.D., M.B., B.S. who is Associate Professor of Pathology at Creighton University School of Medicine and Creighton University Medical Center, is also a birdwatcher.

“I have been a diagnostic surgical pathologist for almost a quarter of a century. Recently, I took up bird-watching (or birding for short) as a hobby. Right away I was struck by the similarities in the two disciplines.”

The professor has compiled a nineteen-point ‘compare and contrast’ table which highlights the similarities of, and differences between: ‘Pathology and Birdwatching‘ (in American Journal of Dermatopathology: August 2003 – Volume 25 – Issue 4 – p 357 Letters to the Editor)

Here’s some detail from the study:


Japan-US diplomacy: Kissing

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

kimataKissing is among the subtle methods great nations use to fluff their relations. Here’s a fresh example — tweets in two languages by Caroline Kennedy, the American ambassador to Japan, saluting Dr. Hajime Kimata, who this week was awarded a 2015 Ig Nobel prize.

The tweets:

ambassador's tweets - Ig Nobel

The prize:

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [JAPAN, CHINA]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [SLOVAKIA, US, UK], Peter Celec [SLOVAKIA, GERMANY], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [SLOVAKIA], for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).

REFERENCES for the prize-winning achievements: “Kissing Reduces Allergic Skin Wheal Responses and Plasma Neurotrophin Levels,” Hajime Kimata, Physiology and Behavior, vol. 80, nos. 2-3, November 2003, pp. 395-8. / “Reduction of Allergic Skin Weal Responses by Sexual Intercourse in Allergic Patients,” Hajime Kimata, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, vol 19, no. 2, May 2004, pp. 151-4. / “Kissing Selectively Decreases Allergen-Specific IgE Production in Atopic Patients,” Hajime Kimata, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 60, 2006, pp. 545– 547. / “Prevalence and Persistence of Male DNA Identified in Mixed Saliva Samples After Intense Kissing,” Natália Kamodyová, Jaroslava Durdiaková, Peter Celec, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik, Forensic Science International Genetics, vol. 7, no. 1, January 2013, pp. 124–8.

Question: Will J. Liam Wasley, the American ambassador to Slovakia, tweet congratulations to the Slovakian co-winners of this prize?

RELATED: Australian government lauds Ig Nobel winner Colin Raston for throwing eggs at a problem:

ScienceGovAuSep 18, 2:20am

Congrats Colin Raston @IgNobel prize winner finding new weapon in fight against cancer w support from

RELATED: Dutch government praises Ig Nobel winner Mark Dingemanse for… Huh?: “Bussemaker prijst ‘huh-wetenschappers’

The best engineered opening line ever written?

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Are these not the finest opening words ever written for an engineering document — maybe for any work of literature?

Be it known that I, Luther C. Barcus, of the town of Sidney, county of Champaign, and State of Illinois, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Monkey-Wrenches…

That’s the beginning of the patent (US number 753837)  issued to Mr. Barcus on March 8, 1904. Here’s an image of the original patent document:

barcus wrench opening words

And here’s a drawing of Mr. Barcus’s monkey wrench:


barcus's wrench itself

Podcast 29: Eat a shrew, and an epidemic of penile amputations

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

The secret of why onions make people cry; the scientist who ate and excreted a shrew; the one-armed man who was arrested for applauding; the question of when cows lie down and stand up; and surgical management of an epidemic of penile amputations in Siam; and a cat unexpectedly taking over the podcast — all these all turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler 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, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).