Archive for 'Arts and science'

The Likely Obscurity of Famous Psychologists

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

“The most famous psychologists today will be forgotten in less than a century”, says this study:

Varieties of Fame in Psychology,” Henry L. Roediger III, Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 11, no. 6, November 2016, pp. 882-887. The author, at Washington University, St. Louis, explains:

“Fame in psychology, as in all arenas, is a local phenomenon. Psychologists (and probably academics in all fields) often first become well known for studying a subfield of an area (say, the study of attention in cognitive psychology, or even certain tasks used to study attention). Later, the researcher may become famous within cognitive psychology. In a few cases, researchers break out of a discipline to become famous across psychology and (more rarely still) even outside the confines of academe. The progression is slow and uneven. Fame is also temporally constricted. The most famous psychologists today will be forgotten in less than a century, just as the greats from the era of World War I are rarely read or remembered today. Freud and a few others represent exceptions to the rule, but generally fame is fleeting and each generation seems to dispense with the lessons learned by previous ones to claim their place in the sun.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


(Thanks to Christian Jarrett for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS QUESTION: How famous is Henry L. Roediger III?


BONUS: “Should this essay about fame become famous?


Bernard Vonnegut, Ice-17, Ice-9, chicken-plucking, and tornadoes

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Bernard Vonnegut, that most surprising atmospheric scientist, gets appreciated in an Italian-language essay called “Ice Numbers“, by Franco Bagnoli of the University of Florence, published in Ciencia y Cultura. Here’s a machine translation of bits of Bagnoli’s essay:

At the end of 2016, at the Institute of Complex Systems of the CNR in Florence, Italy, a new solid phase of water was discovered: ice XVII….

The news, and the discussion workshops that followed, reminded me of one of my favorite novels by writer Kurt Vonnegut [which involves a new phase of water, called “ice-nine”]… Who could have given Vonnegut the idea of ​​this new phase of water? Probably his brother. Bernard Vonnegut, who was a scientist of the atmosphere. He discovered that silver iodide can be used as a nucleating agent to induce rainfall. In the clouds, the water is in the form of small supercooled drops….

Bernard Vonnegut became famous in 1997, the year of his death, for having won the Ig Nobel Prize in meteorology for a 1975 article entitled “Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed“.

The Hemline and The Economy – examining an urban legend

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

“Urban legend has it that the hemline is correlated with the economy. In times of decline, the hemline moves towards the floor (decreases), and when the economy is booming, skirts get shorter and the hemline increases.”

To test the validity of such a(n) hypothesis, researchers Marjolein van Baardwijk and Full Professor Ph.H.B.F. (Philip Hans) Franses of the Econometric Institute at the Erasmus School of Economics, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, conducted a research project – reporting that :

“Based on the analysis of actual data on the hemline, which goes back to January 1921, we found that the economic cycle leads the hemline with about three years. Supporting the urban legend, we find that poor economic times make the hemlines to decrease, which means that women’s dresses get lower, and that prosperity is correlated with a reduced hemline (more miniskirts). At the same time, and this is new to the available evidence, we find that there is a time lag of around three years. This explains why at present, in an economic downturn, the skirts are short, as this is simply due to the fact that the economy was in a boom about three years ago (2007-2008).”

see: The hemline and the economy: is there any match? Econometric Institute Report, 2010-40.

BONUS The Evolution of the Skirt (author: Harry Julius [1885–1938]) – an animation from 1916 – from which the still above is taken.

Coming soon – Korean cyclical pant lengths.

Melanesian nose-flutes – did they ever exist?

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Reports about the existence of nose flutes in Melanesia may have been greatly exaggerated. According to Univ.-Doz. Dr. Raymond Ammann of the Institutes für Musikwissenschaft, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck (Department of Music, University of Innsbruck) who writes :

“[…] references to the existence of nose flutes in Melanesia are often based on unacknowledged references to earlier publications or on hearsay. The earliest references are the most suspect, especially because none of the authors states that he heard and saw the flute being played for more than just a few notes. From the many references on nose flutes in Melanesia, only a few seem to be of substance, especially those from Manus, but even there, the references are not unequivocal.”

The doctor points out that some artefacts described as ‘nose flutes’ can sometimes, in reality, be tobacco pipes. Or, in the case they are in fact flutes – they may have been mouth-blown rather than nose-blown.

“It should be observed that a musician might well sound a few notes with the nose when blowing his mouth-blown flute in order to show a European visitor his virtuosity when asked if he could play with the nose.”

And lastly, in the case that they truly are bona-fide nose flutes, they may not have come from Melanesia.

see: ‘Nose flutes in Melanesia, Facts or Fairytales’ [Caution: large file – very slow download] In: Oceanic Music Encounters, the Print Resource and the Humans Resource, Essays in Honour of Mervyn McLean. (Hg.) Richard Moyle. Research in Linguistics and Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, s. 3 – 14 [page 15 in the pdf]


The Big Bang, The Big Bang, and the Ig Nobel Prizes, in NYC on Super Bowl night

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

If you’re not watching the Super Bowl, and you happen to be in New York City, come to the 92nd Street Y, on Lexington Avenue at 92nd St., New York. The event starts at 8 pm, Sunday, February 5. Some TICKETS are still available.

You will see “Bang! Bang! The Big Bang Theory meets The Big Bang Theory”, a discussion of humor in science, with Claudia Dreifus (New York Times ace interviewer of scientists and other science-y people), Eric Kaplan (The Big Bang Theory TV comedy), Robert Wilson (Nobel laureate, co-discoverer of the cosmic microwave background), and Marc Abrahams (Ig Nobel Prizes, and author of the opera about the Big Bang; Bob Wilson performed in that opera).

UPDATE: The event was livestreamed. Here’s recorded video: