Archive for 'News about research'

Podcast #8: The scientists who taste-tested tadpoles

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The scientists who taste-tested tadpoles figure heavily in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

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

The mysterious John Schedler did the sound engineering this week.

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.

A look back at contagious yawning in tortoises

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

This 2011 BBC TV News report profiled Ig Nobel Prize winner Anna Wilkinson:

BBC-tortoise

A Nobel prize may be the most sought after gong in the scientific world, but a lecturer from the University of Lincoln has picked up the next best thing.

Dr Anna Wilkinson has won an Ig Nobel prize, to honour achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think.

The award was given for her experiments into whether yawning among tortoises is contagious.

Anne-Marie Tasker reports.

Earthy, tasty probiotic recipes

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Probiotic starter cultures come in many different flavors. Here are two that qualify as Not-off-the-shelf.

1. “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.” This study was honored with the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition.

2. Vaginal bacteria as probiotic starter culture for yogurt. Janet Jay, writing in Motherboard, tells the story of how this recipe came into existence, under the headline “How to Make Breakfast With Your Vagina“. Rosanne Hertzberger ponders the result. (Thanks to Charles Oppenheim for bringing this to our attention.)

Ig Nobel update: How well do oil and water mix, five years later?

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

David Biello writes, in Scientific American, about “The Enduring Mystery of the Missing Oil Spilt in the Gulf of Mexico” — a detective story whose beginnings were told in an Ig Nobel Prize-winning study:

Workers uncovered a tar mat weighing some 18,000 kilograms just offshore of a natural barrier island in Louisiana in the summer of 2013. Although the tar mat turned out to bear more sand than oil, it represented another small fraction of the hydrocarbons that went missing after BP’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The sum of all the dispersed oil located thus far, from tar mats to oily marine snow, hardly accounts for at least four million barrels of oil spewed into the cold, dark bottom of the Gulf of Mexico from the deep-sea well named Macondo five years ago. Like any good mystery, this one may never be solved….

eric_adamsThe 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to  Eric Adams [pictured here] of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix. [REFERENCE: “Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator’s Committee. Final Report,” Eric Adams and Scott Socolofsky, 2005.]

Randomness As a Tool to Produce More Women Leaders

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Further fodder for using randomness to make choices that are traditionally made by other, judgment-based methods:

goodallWomen have to enter the leadership race to win: Using random selection to increase the supply of women into senior positions,” Amanda H. Goodall [pictured here] and Margit Osterloh, 2015. The authors, at Cass Business School, City University, London and the University of Zürich, explicitly build on the work of 2010 Ig Nobel management prize winners Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo:

“The supply of women into senior management has changed little despite well intentioned efforts. We argue that the biggest effect is from supply-side factors that inhibit females’ decision to enter competitions: Women are under-confident about winning, men are over-confident; women are more risk averse than men in some settings; and, most importantly, women shy away from competition. In order to change the conditions under which this is the case, this paper proposes a radical idea. It is to use a particular form of random selection of candidates to increase the supply of women into management positions. We argue that selective randomness would encourage women to enter tournaments; offer women ‘rejection insurance’; ensure equality over time; raise the standard of candidates; reduce homophily to improve diversity of people and ideas; and lessen ‘the chosen one’ factor. We also demonstrate, using Jensen’s inequality from applied mathematics, that random selection can improve organizational efficiency….

“Random processing, which includes screening to filter out inappropriate candidates, can in principle be used in many settings to correct and improve different kinds of procedures.18 Zeitoun, Osterloh and Frey (2014) propose developing a corporate governance model using random selection procedures to appoint stakeholder representatives to corporate boards. Pluchino, Rapisarda and Garofalo (2011) suggest using partial random selection as a promotion strategy that protects again the Peter Principle.”