Archive for 'News about research'

Dung Beetle insights: The Milky Way, and now the sun

Monday, August 24th, 2015

The team that won an Ig Nobel Prize for discovering how dung beetles relate to the Milky Way has now, plus or minus some colleagues, discovered how the those beetles and their cousins relate, also, to the sun.

basil_eljundiThey tell about it in a new study: “Neural coding underlying the cue preference for celestial orientation,” Basil el Jundi [pictured here], Eric J. Warrant, Marcus J. Byrne, Lana Khaldy, Emily Baird, Jochen Smolka, and Marie Dacke, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, epub August 24, 2015. The team is based at Lund University, Sweden, and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for biology and astronomy (a joint category!) was awarded to Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric J. Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way. They wrote up that research, in this paper: “Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation,” Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke H. Scholtz, Eric J. Warrant, Current Biology, epub January 24, 2013.

Rachel A. Becker describes the new work, in a National Geographic article called “Why Dung Beetles Watch the Sky While Rolling Poop Balls“.

In this video made in 2013, Eric Warrant discusses the dung beetles and the Ig Nobel Prize:

In this video, made earlier that same year, Marie Dacke introduces people to the world od dung beetles and navigation:


Nasal Photography – new directions

Monday, August 24th, 2015

“In the frontal view, delicate, 3-dimensional (3D) anatomic structures require special photographic skills. Lighting is crucial for detail rendition and 3D reproduction of the nose, and for apparent photographic bias.”

The observation is provided by authors Benedikt Strub, Konrad Mende, Claudia Meuli-Simmen, and Stephan Bessler in a new paper for the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, entitled: ‘The Frontal View of the Nose: Lighting Effects and Photographic Bias’. The authors experimentally investigated 7 different symmetric and asymmetric lighting techniques to find out which might be preferable in advantageously depicting noses in photographs.


Figure 1.
Schematic of lighting arrangements A, B, and D. (A) Classic “quarter-light arrangement”; (B) “quarter-light arrangement” with an additional light reflector on the patient’s right side; and (D) “quarter-light arrangement” with reduced (2 m) flash-flash distance.


“In the frontal view, the shape of the nose is strongly influenced by the lighting technique for photographic documentation. The classic symmetric quarter-light arrangement—a commonly applied, practicable, and technically simple lighting technique—has substantial limitations in detail rendition and 3-dimensionality in the frontal view. Asymmetric light greatly improves detail rendition and 3-dimensionality in frontal photographs of the nose, but as we have shown, strongly asymmetric lighting may lead to apparent changes in nasal shape because of increased lateral shadowing leading to photographic bias, depending on the side of illumination. Consequently, documentation of the nose with asymmetric lighting should always be performed in duplicate from both the right and left sides, to prevent misleading interpretations. We found that slightly asymmetric modifications of the classic quarter-light arrangement offer a perfect but time-consuming and technically demanding compromise. A standardized setting with identical lighting conditions is essential for comparable pre- and postoperative photographic assessment of the nose.”


Note: As a courtesy, Improbable has obscured the identity of this participant whose photos are featured in the paper.

Fraud, by Alias

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Alias had something to say about fraud, and wrote it down:

Corporate Fraud: An Analysis of Malaysian Securities Commission Enforcement Releases,” Raziah Bi Mohamed Sadique, Jamal Roudaki, Murray B. Clark and Norhayati Alias [pictured here], World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 66, 2010.


Revolving Doors (re)visited

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The clip shows F1 chief exec. Bernie Ecclestone in an albeit brief encounter with ‘purgatory’.

Purgatory that is, if you follow the work of Professor Siyaves Azeri, from the Department of Philosophy, Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey, who, in a forthcoming paper for the journal Space and Culture, explains how revolving doors might differ from standard hinged doors.

“A classical door, conceptually speaking, signifies a borderline that clearly defines the interior and the exterior of a designated space. With the revolving door, the threshold expands in space; the duration of experiencing the threshold increases in time. The revolving door turns the threshold into an experiential purgatory so that one may claim that the revolving door fetishizes the threshold and makes it into a ‘thing.’ “

‘Evolving Concepts, Revolving Doors’ also notes that :

“The revolving door represents and reconstructs the genetic root of all threshold devices in its full sense: This common genetic root is compartmentalizing the space and segregating different spaces—and most important, the inside and the outside.”

And concludes :

“The swing door determines the threshold as a concrete entity; thus, the inside and the outside are concretely separated; their absoluteness at this stage is a function of their particular concreteness. Such locality signifies a preconceptual stage in the development of the idea of internal and external spaces alongside the public and the private spheres. The revolving door, however, blurs the local-particular concrete divide between the aforementioned spaces. Yet, by abstracting and universalizing the difference between the two, it turns both the interior and the exterior into concrete universals that are synthesized to form their full expression as absolute contradictories in the concrete universality of the threshold that is now extended into a determined space—a purgatory—thanks to the revolving door.”

Previously Improbable also sees (door related):
• Revolving doors – an examination (Laurier #4 of 4)
• Interpreting automatic door motions

“Free personality tests are more reliable and efficient than the paid variety”

Friday, August 21st, 2015

BPS Research Digest reports:

Free personality tests are more reliable and efficient than the paid variety

vjrl20.v149.i08.coverIn most areas of life, we expect the free versions of products to be sub-standard compared with the “premium” paid-for versions. After all, why would anyone pay for something if the free equivalent were better? However, a new study of personality tests boots this logic off the park – psychologists at the University of Texas report in the Journal of Psychology that free tests are more reliable and efficient than their paid-for, proprietary counterparts.

To measure test reliability, Tyler Hamby and his colleagues dug out personality test data collected in five prior meta-analyses of the Big Five personality traits….

At least for research purposes (as opposed to in applied settings), these new results stack heavily in favour of free tests. Not only do free tests match or exceed the reliability of paid-for tests, they are also shorter which helps encourage participants to complete all test items and reduces participant drop-out rates. “Assuming that a particular scale has been properly validated, we tentatively recommend using free scales to measure Big Five traits in personality research,” the researchers said. It will be interesting to see if this finding applies to other areas of psychology research where free and paid-for tests are available.

The Journal of Psychology study itself is available only for pay. The journal’s publisher charges US $40 for the article, or US $97 for that entire issue of the Journal of Psychology.