Archive for 'Arts and science'

Untrained modern youths and ancient masters in self(ie) portraits

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

What do modern youths and ancient masters have in common? One possible commonality is they way they depict themselves in self portraits – specifically whether they tend to prefer giving preference to their left cheek or the right one.

“[…] a set of selfies and wefies by modern youths reveals comparable biases to self-portraits and portraits by master painters over the history of the visual arts. Assuming that our group of young selfie-takers had no academic training in painting, portraiture, and art history, these findings therefore support an account of posing preferences in terms of biologically determined asymmetries over an account based on culturally induced conventions.”

– explain a research team from the Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma, Italy, and the School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, UK.

They make steps towards clarifying potential confusion with regard to image-reversal in smartphone cameras – as opposed to the mirrors which were often used by Old Masters for their pre-photographic selfies :-

“Because in smartphones the preview image is mirror-reversed, but the image file is saved as taken from a front camera (non-mirror-reversed), a saved image with the selfie-taker on the left signals a preference for a (mirror-reversed) preview image where the selfie-taker is on the right.”

See: Nicola Bruno, Carole Bode & Marco Bertamini (2016): Composition in portraits: Selfies and wefies reveal similar biases in untrained modern youths and ancient masters, in: Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 27 May 2016.

Note that mirror (and smartphone) portraits are only reversed left-right rather than up-down – a much discussed phenomenon. Here’s Richard Feynman’s take on it . . .

New book (and show!) by the Ig Nobel randomness reseachers

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

The Italian researchers who analyzed how the Peter Principle plays out, and who as a side-effect of that were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, have a new book about their experiences. The book is called Abbiamo vinto l’Ig Nobel con il principio di Peter [“We won the Ig Nobel with the Peter Principle”], by Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda , and Cesare Garofalo, published by Malcor D’.

We will all celebrate the new book in a special show at the University of Catania, on Thursday, April 6. The show features: Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Marina de Tommaso (measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam), Elizabeth Oberzaucher (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children), and of course Cesare Garofalo, Alessandro Pluchino, and Andrea Rapisarda (organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random).

The show is a featured part of the Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour.

Eyewitness account of the Ig Nobel show in Graz

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Norbert Swoboda reports about the Ig Nobel show at the University of Graz. His report, in Kleine Zeitung, begins:


From sex, ducks and alcohol

Premiere in Austria: At the University of Graz, three Ig Nobel Prize winners took part in the sold out hall on Wednesday evening.

This was part of the Ig Nobel spring Eurotour. The tour continues next week with shows in Italy and The Netherlands.

BONUS: The University of Graz prepared a highlights video from the evening.

Facts and Truth in Science and Everywhere Else

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

ORF radio, in Austria, interviewed me about fact and truth, a couple hours before I gave a 15-minute keynote talk about that on an ORF TV program:

Ig-Nobel: Facts and Truth in Science — “Fake News” is a term that is currently under discussion – so also last night at an event in the Radiokulturhaus. Marc Abrahams, the inventor of the Ig Nobel Prizes, was also present. Thus, scientific achievements are annually awarded which sound absurd, but are scientifically correct. What you can learn from science: never stop asking questions.
Design: Isabella Ferenci
With: Marc Abrahams, inventor of the Ig Nobel Prizes

You can listen to an edited version of the radio interview, in mixed English and German.

Hells Angels Trademark Law Fetishism Investigation

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Trademark law, the Hells Angels motorcycle club, and fetishism rendezvous in a single academic study:

Hells Angels™ Motorcycle Corporation in the Fashion Business: Interrogating the Fetishism of the Trademark Law,” Tereza Kuldova, Journal of Design History, epub 2016.  The author, at the University of Oslo, explains:

“This article investigates the social function and underlying logic of trademark law by using the unique and unconventional example of self-proclaimed ‘outlaws’, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, and their paradoxical utilization of the IPR law for the protection of their reputation and ‘goodwill’ in both legal and illegal markets. Hells Angels worldwide are passionate about legally protecting their club designs, logos and insignia, as well as logos and designs relating to their legal fashion and accessories businesses with support merchandise. Analysing the example of the Hells Angels and their relationship to their club insignia, it is revealed that the trademarked logos clearly function as fetishes in the anthropological sense. Consequently, it is argued that the trademark law protects precisely this power of the fetish over people, rather than being a mere protection against ‘consumer confusion’ or a mark of ‘origin’. Hence, it is argued that trademark law operates on principles of magic as identified by J.G. Frazer and thus belongs to a magico-legal realm rather than a realm of purely rational law as the legal discipline would like to argue. The power of designed logos is at the crux of the argument.”

Here is a copy of a legal notice the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has affixed to the bottom of its web site:


(Thanks to Oliver Lehman for bringing this to our attention.)