Archive for 'Arts and science'

Penguin sweater target reached

Friday, April 25th, 2014


Thanks to generous contributions, the Penguin Foundation, of Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia, now no longer requires volunteers to knit sweaters for penguins. [that's 'jumpers' in the UK, Australia, N.Z., Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Jersey &etc.]

“Please know that we do not urgently require little penguin jumpers for rehabilitation, we have a good supply of these which we use on any rescued oiled penguins and in the event of an oil spill, these jumpers are also sent to other wildlife rescue centres if required.”

For those who might like to knit a penguin jumper for themselves on their own behalf (or for another creature of similar form and dimensions) the foundation are still providing a knitting pattern, which can be downloaded for free here.

Also see: (Improbable Research, Oct. 2013) ‘A Wetsuit for a Penguin’


Improbability / Ig Nobel Prizes at NIST Friday (am), NYC (pm)

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Two (2) Ig Nobel events on the same day, in different cities:

Ig Nobel chemistry prize winner Theo Gray (inventor of the four-legged periodic table table) can and and will (thanks to some happy coincidences) join me in doing a talk at NIST, in Gaithersburg, Maryland on Friday morning, April 25, at 10:30.

Friday evening, I will be appearing a few hundred miles north of there, as part of the Lost Lectures, at a somewhat secret site in New York City. (Theo will not be part of that, but another Ig Nobel personage will.)


On the up and up: levitating particles & a frog, with sound & magnets

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Two visual demonstrations of levitation, each using known physics properties:

1. Using sound waves to levitate particles [REFERENCE: "Three-dimensional Mid-air Acoustic Manipulation by Ultrasonic Phased Arrays," Yoichi Ochiai, Takayuki Hoshi, Jun Rekimoto, (2013) arXiv:1312.4006.. Thanks to @BetsytheDevine for bringing this to our attention.]:

2. The Ig Nobel Prize-winning levitation of a frog, using magnets [REFERENCE: "Of Flying Frogs and Levitrons," Michael V. Berry and Andre K. Geim [who has a rather colorful biography], European Journal of Physics, v. 18, 1997, p. 307-13.]:

Kisch of Prague, on kissing problems

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Between 1897 and 1899, many medical journals (e.g. the Canadian Medical Review, shown here) carried this blurb, about a recent advance by Dr. Enoch Heinrich Kisch.

evils-of-incomplete-coitusNever before had anyone realized that the withdrawal method of birth control leads to female dissatisfaction… which leads to occasional heart palpitations… which lead to irregular heartbeat, constipation, vertigo, weeping, and a gloomy view of life. Truly “One of the Evils of Incomplete Coitus”. But don’t worry: “All these symptoms will disappear as by enchantment”, if you just give up the withdrawal method.

The original French report is here at BIU Santé., the French medical history archive. It’s still only four paragraphs — so to see the evidence for Kisch’s “Cardiac Neurosis of Sexual Origin”, you probably have to read one of the noted balneologist‘s books about female physiology.

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Fire breathing – the dangers

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


“Fire breathing is a stunning but potentially injurious stunt. The fire-breathers direct a mouthful of fuel forcefully or creates a fine mist by spitting through pursed lips which is ignited over a flame resulting in a stunning visual show of plume, pillar, ball, volcano, or a cloud of fire [Figure 2].”

The potential injuries are described by Dr. Sanjay Saraf, from the Department of Plastic Surgery, NMC Specialty Hospital, Dubai, UAE, in a 2012 article for Indian Dermatology Online J. 2012 Jan-Apr; 3(1): 73–74.

“There are several immediate and long-term health hazards associated with fire-breathing act. Burns are the most obvious fire-breathing danger; however, there could be facial hair loss, ingestional toxicity, cutaneous irritation, peptic ulcers, fire-eater’s pneumonia (hydrocarbon pneumonitis/chemical pneumonia),[3,4] inhalational injuries, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.“

See:Fire-breathing burn’

BONUS: Fire-breathers looking for a safe(r) non-toxic alternative (using corn starch) can check this video >