Archive for 'Improbable innovation'

A complicated way to say: ‘Flip a coin’

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Considerable expense and effort are thrown at the question: What will people choose?

Which cell phone? Which features? Which dinner entrée? Which school?  Which local political candidate? Which stock or bond? Which financial advisor? Which job candidate? Which job? Which hole to stick your nose in, if you’re offered a choice?

BUT BUT BUT sometimes, maybe much of the time, people choose at random. (You can say that in a more impressively academic-sounding way:  Sometimes people choose stochastically.)

A new study suggests that it’s not just a people thing, this choosing at random. Sometimes rats do it, too….

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

Here’s detail from that study:

rat-study-FEATURE

Superpowers for baristas

Monday, September 29th, 2014

There’s reported progress in the struggle to give baristas (and their bosses, and their boss’s vendors, too) more reliable info about the identities of their coffee beans.

Details are in the study “Voltammetric Electronic Tongue and Support Vector Machines for Identification of Selected Features in Mexican Coffee,” by Rocio Berenice Domínguez, Laura Moreno-Barón, Roberto Muñoz, and Juan Manuel Gutiérrez [published in the journal Sensors, vol. 14, no. 9, 2014, 17770-17785.]….

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

World’s most inventive inventor (and possibly greatest human) is coming to the Ig

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Japan’s most famous — and most colorful — inventor/politician/author is coming to Boston this week, returning to the scene of his highest official honor.

He boasts more than 3300 patents, and dozens of books. He has repeatedly run for high political office, easily attracting more press coverage than most of his competitors. He is better known in Japan than any American inventor is in America. He is widely believed to be among the wealthiest persons in Japan. His manner is always masterly, commanding, and deadpan hilarious. He is, I think, the nearest humanity will ever see to a real-life Wizard of Oz.

He is Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, aka Dr. NakaMats.

Dr. NakaMats came to Harvard in 2005, where he was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition, for having photographed every meal he had eaten during the previous 34 years (and counting).

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

You can see Dr. Nakamats this Thursday, September 18 — in person or on the webcast — when he gives the keynote address at this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

Doorknobs (not just elevator buttons) going viral. Oh, my!

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Almost immediately after the fearful news about elevator buttons, and with the world worried about the Ebola virus, the American Society for Microbiology has issued a press release decrying the dangers of doorknobs.

As I wrote here recently, three doctors in Toronto wrote a little study about the bacteria they found on hospital elevator buttons. That study might foster a renewed yearning for so-called bacteria-killing soaps, lotions, and other products that claim to wipe out scary bugs. There’s an entire industry devoted to those products — products that can, if used carelessly, end up doing more harm than good….

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

Insights, scientific and dashcam, into road rage

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Road rage, as the world boasts ever more automobiles but not as many more roads, is a puzzlement.

The video above, recorded by the dashcam of a Russian driver, demonstrates one of the surprising ways road rage can manifest. Watching, you might be tempted to say that it demonstrates man’s animal nature. (Thank you to Adam K. Olson for bringing it to my attention.)

Researchers here and there have been trying to get a better feel for who’s prone to bouts of road rage, and who is not….

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.