The whether and when and how often of cats possibly paying attention to their owners is the main thing in this week’s Improbable Research podcast. Oh, and lots of Jean Berko Gleason and her cat, Foster.
The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.
The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS Play.it web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).
The question : ‘If your house is at risk of flooding, does that make it worth less?’ – has been answered by investigators at the Department of Economics, East Carolina University, US. The research team used a Semiparametric Hedonic Price Function Model combined with Geographic Information System data on National Flood Insurance Program flood zones to evaluate hazards in the coastal housing market of Carteret County, North Carolina. The results were clearcut :
“[…] location within a flood zone lowers property value.“
Before jumping (in)to any financially-significant conclusions though, property owners and potential buyers might like to see a previous study – from the same (lead) author, Profesor Okmyung Bin. Back in 2005, he carried out a somewhat related research project – again examining the effects of proximity to water (in particular open water wetlands) on property values.
“The results indicate that proximity to open water wetlands has a positive association with property values […]“
“We demonstrated that houses surrounded by sharp leaf vegetation (SLV) were evaluated as more expensive than houses surrounded by round leaf vegetation (RLV)”
Thus, the house shown above right was rated (by non-expert experimental raters recruited through Amazon MTurk) as being worth less than the same house when shown surrounded by palm-like vegetation. But, you may ask, “Why?” In which case, the authors have an explanation for you :
“The perceived higher values and safety of houses surrounded by palms is attributed to the association of palms with suitable and stable living environments. Furthermore, preference for palm habitats may have deep roots of human evolution in African savannas.”
Coming Soon : The ups and downs of waterside properties
If you dribble a drop of ouzo (which ouzo vendors assure us is Greece’s most popular drink) a dribbling that can easily happen if you have drunk many drops of ouzo, what happens to that drop? A newly published study peers tightly at that question:
“[There are] four life phases: In phase I, the spherical cap-shaped droplet remains transparent while the more volatile ethanol is evaporating, preferentially at the rim of the drop because of the singularity there. This leads to a local ethanol concentration reduction and correspondingly to oil droplet nucleation there. This is the beginning of phase II, in which oil microdroplets quickly nucleate in the whole drop, leading to its milky color that typifies the so-called “Ouzo effect.” Once all ethanol has evaporated, the drop, which now has a characteristic nonspherical cap shape, has become clear again, with a water drop sitting on an oil ring (phase III), finalizing the phase inversion. Finally, in phase IV, all water has evaporated, leaving behind a tiny spherical cap-shaped oil drop.”
The University of Twente produced a celebratory press release. A couple of videos illustrate these goings on:
BONUS: An old video of how ouzo is said to be made: