Archive for 'News about research'

Advice to kids: Just say no (to fainting)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Mass inoculation programs for school children sometimes encounter problems – with considerable numbers of children fainting. Fortunately, in 1973, a very straightforward remedial strategy was discovered by Alan Hedberg and Audrey Schlong. It was described in the journal Nursing Research.Faint_Not

Be still my beating heart … smashed fingers, battered shins and fake murder

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

If you (yup, you) use a fake weapon to brutally beat a stranger, and then slit his throat, and then shoot him in the face, and then you assault a little baby, will your heart and blood pump like mad — even if you know that it’s all a trick and the man will suffer no harm and the baby is just a life-like doll? An American experiment sought an answer to that question.

You can read about it in a study called Simulating Murder: the Aversion to Harmful Action, published in the journal Emotion. The authors, Fiery Cushman [pictured below, with colleagues from his lab], Kurt Gray, Allison Gaffey and Wendy Berry Mendes, are respectively at Harvard University, the University of Maryland, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of California, San Francisco.

So begins this month’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.


The role of flapping elephant ears in heat dissipation

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Elephants are big, and they get hot. Especially in Africa. Thus, from the elephant’s point of view, there’s sometimes an urgent necessity to dissipate excess heat.

Some investigators have suggested that flapping their large ears (strictly, their ‘pinnae’) could provide a significant heat-loss mechanism. (e.g. Buss, I. O., and Estes, J. A., 1971, ‘The Functional Significance of Movements and Positions of the Pinnae of the African Elephant. Loxodonta Africana, Journal of .Mammalogy, 52, pp. 21-27) But, until 2013, no formal studies had investigated the transient effects of the flapping motion on the elephant pinna’s surface temperature. Prompting Dr. Moise Koffi (of the Department of Academic Affairs, CUNY-Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY, US) along with Prof. Yiannis Andreopoulos and Prof. Latif M. Jiji (both of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, The City College of New York, NY, US) to perform a series of controlled laboratory-based studies. Their experiments included the use of full-sized flapping leather faux elephant ears, silicone heaters, and a smoke machine  – along with computer-model thermal simulation techniques.


The results of the experiments and simulations not only demonstrated and quantified the efficacy of ear flapping, but also showed (for the first time) the role played by swirling air vortices [see photo below].elephant_ear_smoke_03


[…] our results agree with the conclusion reached by previous researchers that the flapping of the pinna should be the main thermoregulatory mechanism of the body temperature of large animals such as African elephants. The present contribution, however in the context of the current understanding, is in identifying the vortical system that is responsible for the heat transfer enhancement
observed in the present work which is further amplified in the case of flexible surface.”

See: The Role of Pinnae Flapping Motion on Elephant Metabolic Heat Dissipation in: The Journal of Heat Transfer, Volume 136, Issue 10.

The $14.95 question : In the light of the new findings, are questions (and answers) like these in need of revision? [thanks to P.H. for the link]

BONUS: The famous Disney cartoon version of elephant ear flapping:


Praga-dialectics update: An analysis of “Yes, but …”

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

ARGLabThe ArgLab at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, is concerned with argumentation and decision making processes as far as they can be philosophically approached and thus related with Practical Reason and Values. For a representative recent publication from the lab, see: ‘Managing disagreement through yes, but… constructions: An argumentative analysis’  (by Mehmet Ali Uzelgun, Dima Mohammed, Marcin Lewiński, and Paula Castro, in: Discourse Studies April 28, 2015)

“The goal of this study is to examine the argumentative functions of concessive yes, but… constructions. Based on (N = 22) interview transcripts, we examine the ways environmental activists negotiate their agreements and disagreements over climate change through yes, but… constructions. Starting from conversational analyses of such concessive sequences, we develop an account grounded in argumentative discourse analysis, notably pragma-dialectics. ”

Bonus argumentative resource: The Journal of Argumentation in Context.

Also see: (Improbable posts)
“YES!” – a comprehensive review (part 1)
“YES!” – a comprehensive review (part 2)

An insipid CH star in the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

An insipid CH star in the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy is the subject of this study:

An insipid CH star in the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy,”  Matthew D. Shetrone [pictured here], Michael Briley, and James P. Brewer, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 335 (1998): 919-921.