“Why does coffee make you poop?” Four videos.

August 27th, 2015

Several organizations try to answer the same question (a question that is laden with assumptions): “Why does coffee make you poop?”

Discovery News:


ACS Reactions:

Nathan and Rose:

(Thanks to Vaughn Tan for bringing this to our attention.)


Puritan values: Revised history of Harvard and Yale Universities

August 26th, 2015

Puritan State University tells its own history, and also its own history of two other universities:

Brief History

PuritanStateUAs were the cases wherein Reverend Harvard founded Harvard University and Rev. Yale, the Yale University in the states, so was Dr. Si Hwa Chang who likewise, as nationalist and a true believer of the Puritan martyr spirit, who founded the first Christian school on 3726 W. Adams Blvd. on this land in the recent dawning era of Koreans in the states….

This Christian school, having commenced as LOS ANGELES BIBLE COLLEGE AND SEMINARY, was approved by the State of California in 1969…. In 1987, the school changed its name to L.A. Christian Univ. and in May 1993 to Puritan State University.

Professor Necker on head-bobbing

August 26th, 2015

Prof-NeckerConsiderable academic effort has been expended in the ongoing quest to understand head bobbing in birds (see previous article: ‘Why do birds bob their head while running?’) Now, for an expert overview, turn to the work of Professor Necker (University of Bochum [retired]) The professor explains that :

“Altogether it seems that the visual aspect of head-bobbing is the primary function. Head-bobbing may help in improving object detection when foraging on the ground. The coordination of head-bobbing and leg movements is not necessary for keeping balance but may help in stabilizing position during walking. For those birds that practice head-bobbing, both functions seem to be useful adaptations to cope with walking on the ground.”

But, he also notes:

“Although there are now quite a number of observations available, there is still no unequivocal interpretation of the function of head-bobbing and why some birds bob their head and others do not.“

BONUS: The professor has also compiled a unique online resource, in the form of a ‘List of bird species resting on one leg’ along with a photographic library of supporting evidence.


Podcast 26: A look back at the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize winners (PART 1)

August 25th, 2015

Trod-upon banana peels; deities in toast; late night psychopaths; cat hazards; dog alignment; really, really, really heavy marijuana users; fat people’s shoes; spearmint tea and hairy women; and someone who swallowed a fork — all these all turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on Play.it, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler 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, both on the new CBS Play.it web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

How Do Bumps Form in Carpets?

August 25th, 2015

We’ve all had this experience: we are walking on a carpet, and we suddenly trip over an annoying bump (or “ruck”) that we didn’t know was there. So how did it form?

My colleagues Alpha Lee, Clément Le Goullec, and Dominic Vella from the Mathematical Institute at University of Oxford have just posted a new paper that endeavors to explain an apparent paradox in the formation of carper rucks.

As the authors write in their abstract:

Everyday experience suggests that a ‘ruck’ forms when the two ends of a heavy carpet or rug are brought closer together. Classical analysis, however, shows that the horizontal compressive force needed to create such a ruck should be infinite. We show that this apparent paradox is due to the assumption of inextensibility of the rug. By accounting for a finite extensibility, we show that rucks appear with a finite, non-zero end-shortening and confirm our theoretical results with simple experiments. Finally, we note that the appropriate measure of extensibility, the stretchability, is in this case not determined purely by geometry, but incorporates the mechanics of the sheet.

Figure 1 from the paper by Lee et al.