Slowing down ping pong for TV (study)

August 10th, 2017

“The medial [sic] appeal of table tennis seems to go down in terms of TV hours, at least outside Asia. One of the reasons is the fact that the speed of the game is nowadays so high that it is very hard for spectators to follow the balls.”

So, in terms of slowing down the game (in order to increase its appeal for TV viewers) what might be done? In 2013, a team from the Institute of Physics, and the Institute of Community Medicine at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Greifswald, along with the Faculty of Informatics and Electrical Engineering, University Rostock, Germany, decided to use a computational modeling approach to provide answers.

An Euler solver was used, because its algorithmic simplicity allowed an easy transfer onto the GPU with CUDA. A commonly used Runge-Kutta algorithm was not chosen, because it has larger computational costs. A fourth order Runge Kutta approach needs to calculate four times the forces, which slows down the code performance in our case compared to the simple Euler method. This was not compensated by the larger time step possible with the Runge-Kutta method compared to the Euler method. The dependence of the aero dynamic forces on the velocity also does not allow the use of a Verlet algorithm. Therefore, we decided to stay with the Euler method.”

The results revealed not one, but two possible methodologies which could be practical solutions – if adopted by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

“A larger ball of 44 mm with small weight is one option for suppressing high velocities, resulting also in a reduction of the influence of spinning. As an alternative option an increase of the net height is possible.”

See:’ Computer simulations of table tennis ball trajectories for studies of the influence of ball size and net height ‘ in the International Journal of Computer Science in Sport, volume 12/2013/edition 2.

Bonus Task [optional] Suggest other methods that might be employed to slow down the game.

Also see: Things researchers do with ping-pong balls

Note: The illustration is an interesting candidate for the Necker cube illusion. (stare at it for a while and it will probably flip)




Soap Film Opera, fluid dynamically, in France

August 8th, 2017

A series of musico-visual treats — in a new genre called “soap film opera” — are being produced by Florence Elias and her colleagues at Laboratoire Matière et Sytèmes Complexes, Université Paris Diderot and at CNRS. The genre marries soap film, fluid dynamics, music, and videography. Here are three samples — “Habañera” from Carmen, “Lucilla”, and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:

(Thanks to Nicole Sharp of FYFD for bringing this to our attention.)


Scientist who uplifted a frog did not support the Chinese brassiere

August 8th, 2017

News reports say that Andre Geim (who won an Ig Nobel physics prize for using magnets to levitate a frog, and then won a Nobel physics prize for discovering how to obtain and study the virtually-two-dimensional form of carbon known as “graphene“) — discovered that a Chinese brassiere manufacturer is falsely claiming that he, Andre Geim, endorsed the power of their brassieres.

The Times report begins:

Busted! Makers of miracle bra faked support of Nobel winner Sir Andre Geim

Graphene scientists are used to dealing with exciting claims. The material’s superconductivity could revolutionise electronics and its super-strength could transform aircraft construction. Few industries appear safe from disruption.

Even so Andre Geim, who won a Nobel prize for its discovery, was surprised to hear graphene underwear could renew sexual vigour and enlarge breasts. He was particularly surprised because, when he read about the claims, they were endorsed by one Professor Andre Geim, from the University of Manchester….. Shengquan insists underwear made of graphene boosts breast size and sex lives….

The South China Morning Post carries this headline on its report:

‘I’m not advertising underwear’: UK Nobel laureate in ‘fake claims’ row with Chinese firm

(Thanks to Davide Castelvecchi for bringing this to our attention.)

NOTE: So far as we are aware, the Shengquan bra is not connected in any way with the Emergency Bra (a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.), whose inventor, Elena Bodnar, was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for public health….

Can trends in baby’s names foreshadow major social events? (new study)

August 7th, 2017

“Before 1992, the names ‘Hillary’ and ‘Hilary’ had been increasing in popularity for several decades. After 1992, however, their popularity dropped suddenly 10-fold.”

– explains Stefano Ghirlanda who is Professor of Psychology, Biology, and Anthropology, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and Founder and fellow, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University. With this in mind, he writes, in the current issue of Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution regarding his thesis that : ‘Trends in First Names Foreshadowed Hillary Clinton’s Electoral Defeat’ 

“I examine trends in the popularity of first names around the years of USA presidential elections, showing that the names ‘Hillary’ and ‘Hilary’ decreased abruptly by more than 90% in popularity following the 1992 election of Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill. I show that this outcome is unique to the 1992 election, and argue that it may evidence a “dislike” for Hillary Clinton’s public image among both Democratic and Republican voters, which may have eventually contributed to Hillary Clinton’s losing the 2016 presidential election.”

Bonus Task [optional]: At the time of writing, according to the US Govt. baby names database, the most popular boy’s name is ‘Noah’. What, if anything may be inferred?

Update Note: Professor Ghirlanda was co-recipient of the 2003 Ig Nobel prize for INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH (along with Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University), for their inevitable report “Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans.”





“All these papers were deliberately bad”

August 7th, 2017

“All these papers were deliberately bad. They were created with the purpose of exposing exploitative publishing practices. That is, the works collected here were sting operations on predatory journals.” So says the introduction to the book Stinging the Predators: A collection of papers that should never have been published, assembled by Zen Faulkes. Falkes is a professor of biology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. You can download the book, free.

That book includes the following papers, and follows them with some Faulkesian analysis of the situation that led people to write the papers, and led publishers to publish them:

The Sokal hoax (1996)

The blog that called predator (June 2009)

Abstract theology (August 2011)

Random math (September 2012)

The Bohannon Science sting (October 2013)

“Get me off your fucking mailing list” (November 2014)

Cuckoo for cocoa puffs (January 2015)

Fake news (May 2015)

Been there, done that (August 2016)

“Siri, write me a conference abstract” (October 2016)

The first Spears (November 2016)

The second Spears (December 2016)

Doctor Fraud (March 2017)

A paper about nothing (April 2017)

The conceptual penis (May 2017)

The garbage’ll do (July 2017)

Spam inspires surreal sting (July 2017)

NOTE: Publication of the Sokal hoax paper led to the awarding of the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for literature to the editors of the journal Social Text, for eagerly publishing research that they could not understand, that the author said was meaningless, and which claimed that reality does not exist.