Archive for 'News about research'

The Logic of Absurdity – and the puzzle of leadership irrelevance

Monday, May 15th, 2017

“Leaders are often thought to be instrumental to the performance of the organizations they lead. However, considerable research suggests that their influence over organizational performance might actually be minimal. These claims of leader irrelevance pose a puzzle: If leaders are relatively insignificant, why would someone commit to leading?”

Taking steps towards explaining the puzzle, Daniel Newark (Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at HEC [‘Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales’] Paris, France) introduces the idea of the ‘Logic of Absurdity’ in a new paper for the Academy of Management Review. The ‘Logic of Absurdity’ is, in essence :

“- a decision-making process that can sustain devoted leadership when leaders’ import is negligible. By acknowledging expected insignificance and meeting it with unmerited dedication, absurd leaders maintain their astuteness while tapping into the resilience and freedom of rationally unjustified choice. “

viz. by way of a summary of the current state of affairs :

“Scholars disagree about the fundamental influence and import of leaders. Some claim that their significance is sizable. And an abundance of books, articles, talks, and courses about leadership bolsters this view. Others claim that leaders hardly matter, deeming academics and quasi-academics who say otherwise peddlers of modern day alchemy, proffering fool’s gold to the organizational monarchy and all who wish to be crowned. And still others call for nuance and contingency, responding with a qualified, ‘it depends’.”

See: Leadership and the Logic of Absurdity in Academy of Management Review, pre-print online February 2, 2017

Bonus assignment [optional] : Working on the assumption that leaders can’t exist without followers, is the implication that followers also obey the Logic of Absurdity?

Also see : The Mathematics of Mediocracy

The rise of “jaw-dropping”

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The phrase “jaw-dropping” has risen, with jaw-dropping suddenness, in recent times. We ran a Google Ngram data crunch. Here’s the result:

The jaw-dropping rise began in the 1980s. Here’s a look at the portion of that same graph, beginning with the 1970’s  (the 1970’s itself was an era of jaw-droppingly small usage of the phrase “jaw-dropping”):

BONUS: A medical research report called “Dropped jaw—mandibular neurapraxia in the dog” was published in 1976, in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

The Choo Lab’s Humming Generator

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Many research groups across the world are in the process of developing so-called ‘Energy Harvesting’ (EH) techniques to extract electrical energy from human actions. (see for example, Implementing a knee-energy harvester). The Choo Lab at Caltech specializes in such things, and researchers there have recently developed a system which is designed to power portable electronic devices by extracting useful energy from vibrations originating in human vocal cords. To be specific, it’s a humming generator.

Harvesting energy from participants who hummed* at 75dB (i.e. around normal voice levels) for 10 minutes, a test prototype was able to generate enough power to charge a battery and “operate a 10-LED array (power consumption: 2.2 V, 10 mA) […] for about a minute.” Or, put another way, enough to illuminate one LED for ten minutes. That’s to say, the device can continuously power an LED, providing its wearer keeps humming.

“Our energy harvesting method will provide a practical and efficient way to harvest energy to power portable electronics anywhere without additional charging apparatus.“

– say the team. Details are published in : ‘Powering Portable Electronics Using Vocal Fold Vibrations’, Cho, Hyunjun, Kyoo Hyun Noh, Tomohiro Ishikawa, Daejong Yang, Edgar Sanchez-Sinencio, and Hyuck Choo. IEEE MEMS, Jan 22–26, 2017, Las Vegas, NV (Oral Presentation).

*note: Also works with shouting (and, presumably, singing)

For another recent example of EH see: ‘A non-resonant, gravity-induced microtriboelectric harvester to collect kinetic energy from low-frequency jiggling movements of human limbs’ Yingxian Lu, Xiaohong Wang, Xiaoming Wu, Jin Qin and Ruochen Lu. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Volume 24, Number 6.

Also don’t miss Trumbull and Johnston’s patented tooth generator.




A novel source of ultrahigh surface area carbons – fizzy drinks (study)

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

“Ultrahigh surface area carbons (USACs, e.g., >2000 m2/g) are attracting tremendous attention due to their outstanding performance in energy-related applications.”

Observations such as this have lead to the search for an easy and cheap method of producing these materials – which find uses like supercapacitor electrodes, catalyst supports, and gas sorbents etc etc. A research team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee, (Pengfei Zhang, Zhiyong Zhang, Jihua Chen and Sheng Dai) have, between them, developed just such a method. Their study, describing the process in detail, is published in the specialist journal Carbon, Volume 93, November 2015, Pages 39–47, and is entitled ‘Ultrahigh surface area carbon from carbonated beverages: Combining self-templating process and in situ activation’

“This promising process provides an exceptional route to highly porous carbon materials.”

– say the team, noting that Coca Cola®, Pepsi Cola®, Dr. Pepper®, and Fanta® all perform rather well.

The paper may be found in full here

Note that the 2009 Ig Nobel Chemistry prize was awarded to Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.

REFERENCE: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila,” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485. Also published as Reviews on Advanced Materials Science, vol. 22, no. 1, 2009, pp. 134-8.

Medical-journals mystery? What about those parking-gate injuries?

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Why are there so very few medical journal reports about parking-gate injuries?

Such injuries — which happen when a parking lot gate encounters a human body — are reported to be frequent and expensive. Yet PubMed, the preeminent database of medical studies and other medical reports, seems to include almost no medical reports about this kind of injury. Why? Have we been negligent in our search attempts? Are these kinds of injuries considered so very straightforward to treat that no medical professionals deem them worth writing about?

This video claims to show one of presumably many incidents:

As to the prevalence of this kind of injury, the trade news source Parking Today reported, in 2011: “Gate-arm accidents are responsible for 5% of all reported personal injury claims occurring in parking garages, says a study conducted by the International Parking Institute. They also present the third-highest average dollar amount, at $2,800 per claim.”

The mystery of why there are so few medical journal reports extends, too, to the question of injuries incurred when an automobile driver has physically unhappy intercourse with a parking lot automatic-ticket-payment-collection machine.