Archive for 'News about research'

Podcast #4: The rectum of the Bishop of Durham

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

improbableresearchThe rectum of the Bishop of Durham is on display in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

The podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — research about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that’s good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS Play.it web site, and on iTunes.

Podcast #3: The Rectum of the Bishop of Durham

  • LISTEN on Play.it or iTunes. (Or DOWNLOAD it, and listen later)
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This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

Estimating intranasal volume – the easy way

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Intranasal-CavityOne way to measure a human subject’s intranasal volume is to perform a structural whole-brain T1-weighted MRI scan, and then use computerised volumetric image analysis software on the resulting data. But is there an easier way?

Yes, there is, according to a group of researchers from the Taste and Smell Clinic, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany, the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, United States, the Dept. of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States, the Dept. of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and the department of Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany, just look at the size of their nostrils (the subject’s, not the researchers).

“It is well documented that size of various body parts tends to correlate within the same individual.”*[1] they say, and, based on this premise, they decided to investigate the possible validity of their simple test. See: ‘Size of nostril opening as a measure of intranasal volume’ in: Physiology & Behavior, Volumes 110–111, 17 February 2013, Pages 3–5

“Our results suggest that the intranasal volume is positively correlated with the area of the nostril opening. Intranasal volume did not differ significantly between men and women although men had significant larger nostril openings. However, the correlation between intranasal volume and nostril opening was not influenced by the subject’s gender. In conclusion, it is possible to obtain a good estimate of the intranasal volume using measurements of the nares.*[2]

A full copy of the paper may be found here [click: Full Text]

* Notes:

[1] “For example, a tall individual with long legs also tends to have long arms.”

[2] “Nares” is pronounced to rhyme with ‘Fairies’ rather than ‘Fairs’

Ig Nobel shows in Aarhus (Wed, Thurs) and Copenhagen (Fri)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

denmark-mapThe 2015 Ig Nobel EuroTour descends on Denmark this week. Here are the details:

  • AARHUS UNIVERSITY, Denmark, Aarhus. The Ceremonial Hall. Wednesday and Thursday, March 25 & 26, evening. (TICKETS). (NOTE: There are also optional events immediately before and after each Aarhus show. BEFORE the show, there is a BUFFET —separate tickets are required for the buffet. AFTER the show, there is a receptionfree, no tickets required — for every one, at the Steno Science Museum.) Featuring: Marc Abrahams; Dr. Nakamats (Ig Nobel winner, photographing every meal he has consumed over a period of 43 years); Hynek Burda (Ig Nobel winner, Documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines); Jaroslav Flegr (Ig Nobel winner, Is it mentally hazardous for a human to own a cat); Eigel Reimers (Ig Nobel winner, Testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears); and a special appearance by LFFFHCfS member Halfdan Skjerning and his beard. NOTE: The shows in Aarhus will be live-streamed to six towns in Jutland, Germany, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.
  • UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, Denmark. Festsalen, Frue Plads 4, 1168 København. Friday, March 27, 7:00 pm. (TICKETS.) Featuring: Marc Abrahams; Dr. Nakamats (Ig Nobel winner, photographing every meal he has consumed over a period of 43 years); Hynek Burda (Ig Nobel winner, Documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines); Jaroslav Flegr (Ig Nobel winner, Is it mentally hazardous for a human to own a cat); Eigel Reimers (Ig Nobel winner, Testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears)

BONUS: Dr. NakaMats discusses his ideas for better ideas

BONUS: The complete tour schedule (next week: Sweden).

stinker-450

The Ho Ho Classification and Nomenclature Committee Report

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Copies of this report on Ho Ho Classification and Nomenclature are now hard to come by:

The Ho Ho Classification and Nomenclature Committee Report,” Johan Kamminga, Maxine Kleindienst, Ruthann Knudson, and Robert Lawrence,  Lithic Use-wear Analysis, 1979, pp. 133-35.

BONUS (unrelated): Huh

Professional Football Player by Day, Spectral Graph Theorist by Night

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

urschelJohn Urschel is not your ordinary National Football League offensive lineman. He may be a professional football player by day, but by night he is a spectral graph theorist (and numerical linear algebraist). His latest paper has now been accepted for publication in Journal of Computational Mathematics. Urschel announced via Twitter that his paper had been officially accepted for publication. (Based on my googling, the final version of the paper hasn’t yet appeared.)

Here is the paper’s abstract as it appears in the preprint:

In this paper, we develop a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue. This vector has been found to have applications in fields such as graph partitioning and graph drawing. The algorithm is a purely algebraic approach based on a heavy edge coarsening scheme and pointwise smoothing for refinement. To gain theoretical insight, we also consider the related cascadic multigrid method in the geometric setting for elliptic eigenvalue problems and show its uniform convergence under certain assumptions. Numerical tests are presented for computing the Fiedler vector of several practical graphs, and numerical results show the efficiency and optimality of our proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm.

You can read a draft of Urschel’s paper, called A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians, on the arXiv preprint server. I just wish that he used his current affiliation on the paper, because that would have been fantastic.

(Thanks to investigator Francis Su for bringing this to our attention.)

Bonus: Many other famous people who are more traditionally associated with non-scientific walks of life have also contributed to science. The people on this list include Danica McKellar, Natalie Portman, Mayim Bialek, and Hedy Lamarr.

Another Bonus: Using the MathSciNet website for examining publication paths between mathematical scientists, you can see that John Urschel’s Erdős number is at most four.

A Third Bonus: Here is Urschel’s academic website at Penn State. He previously published a paper about a topic in celestial mechanics. Urschel also has at least one more paper on spectral graph theory.