Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Marcus Byrne tells of the dung beetles and the Milky Way

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Marcus Byrne tells about the dung-beetles-and-the-Milky-Way research that led to an Ig Nobel Prize for him and his colleagues, in this University of the Witwatersrand video:

That Ig Nobel Prize was awarded, in 2013, jointly in the fields of biology and astronomy, to Marie Dacke [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA], Emily Baird [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], Marcus Byrne [SOUTH AFRICA, UK], Clarke Scholtz[SOUTH AFRICA], and Eric J. Warrant [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

REFERENCE: “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.

Here’s a TEDx talk in which Byrne elucidates the relationship between dung beetles and dung:


The Museum of Sex’s curator has written a book

Monday, January 18th, 2016

forbes-bookSarah Forbes has written a book about her experiences as curator of The Museum of Sex.

We have enjoyed our experiences collaborating with the curator, on the case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck, on the case of the Blonsky device for using centrifugal force to assist women in giving birth, and on other endeavors.

Forbes’s book is called Sex in the Museum: My Unlikely Career at New York’s Most Provocative Museum. We eagerly await the official publication day, April 5.

Heather Wood Rudolph has collaborated with curator Forbes in previewing the book, in an article in Cosmopolitan magazine called “Get That Life: How I Became the Curator at the Museum of Sex.”

Cow gas-extraction for automobile propulsion project

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

The cow-centric project, as reported by Ben Schiller for Fast Company, is as much performance art as state-of-the-art technology performance:


“Each cow apparently passes enough gas to power a car or a fridge. Imagine the possibilities…. The project from Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology is only a proof-of-concept at this stage. But it is intriguing. Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane—about 300 liters a day. That’s enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.”

Riddle and Tribble on Military Diarrhea

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Military life is not all glory, Riddle and Tribble and colleagues remind us in this study:

Military importance of diarrhea: lessons from the Middle East,” John W. Sanders, Shannon D. Putnam, Mark S. Riddle, and David R. Tribble, Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, vol. 21, 2005, pp. 9–14. (Thanks to investigator Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) The authors report:

“Historically, the most common medical problem faced by deployed military troops has been diarrhea… To assess the impact of diarrhea on operational effectiveness, soldiers who were systematically selected from around Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in the rest and recuperation program at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, were asked to complete a questionnaire…. Despite modern preventive medicine efforts, diarrhea rates remain high, and the impact of illness remains a threat to military efficiency.”

Detail from the study:


BONUS:  The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Krafte-Jacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their breakthrough study, “The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops,” and especially for their numerical analysis of bowel movement frequency. [Published in Military Medicine, vol. 158, August, 1993, pp. 346-348.]

Mr. Sparks’ predator-intimidating walking stick (new patent)

Monday, January 4th, 2016

“Disclosed herein is an apparatus for deterring predators, which may be used as a walking stick until a predator is encountered. Upon encountering a predator, the apparatus allows a user to rapidly deploy a collapsible rigid structure from the interior of the hollow walking stick, which supports a membrane, or set of membranes, that display the image of a fearsome creature.“

The description is from a new (Nov. 24, 2015) US patent assigned to inventor James Sparks of Georgetown, Texas for his Predator-intimidating walking stick. The methodology of its operation can be appreciated by the following drawings from the patent, which, in a temporary departure from out normal format, we present in a pictorial narrative style.
Fig 1 While hiking, a walker encounters a predator – in this case a bear-like animal.Bear-Repleller-01

Fig 2 The bear becomes angry – whereupon the walker begins deployment by unfurling an image of a fearsome creature.


Fig 3 The fearsome creature image.


Fig 4 The bear, unnerved, slopes away.


Fig 5 As may sometimes happen, the bear returns, even more angrily. The staff, which has now been fitted with its pike-like extension, is positioned.


Fig 6 The bear is impaledBear-Repleller-06

The end [i.e. the patent doesn’t go into detail as to what happens next]

If you’d like to read a description of the invention in a one-sentence format (as is sometimes preferred by patent attorneys) here it is, around 492 words long:

Click to continue reading “Mr. Sparks’ predator-intimidating walking stick (new patent)”