No Baby Boom Following Fifty Shades of Grey

May 16th, 2017

Anticipation caused by the book Fifty Shades of Grey (and its sequels) may have led to disappointment, suggests this new medical report:

No baby booms or birth sex ratio changes following Fifty Shades of Grey in the United States,” Victor Grech, Early Human Development, vol. 110, July 2017, pp. 16-20. The author, at Mater Dei Hospital, Malta, reports:

“The Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG) trilogy were publicised by the media as inflaming increased coital activity, and that this would result a baby boom. Furthermore, increased coital activity skews the sex ratio at birth (M/T) toward male births. This study was carried out in order to ascertain whether there were any spikes in total births or in M/T in the United States (US) circa nine months following the FSOG books.”

Grech obtained and interpreted a large amount of childbirth data:

“Monthly male and female births for the US were obtained directly from the website of the Centre for Disease Control (01/2007–12/2015). This study analysed 36,499,163 live births (M/T 0.5117, 95% CI 0.5116–0.5119). There are no discernible spikes in total births or M/T at annual level, or circa nine months after FSOG book releases i.e. 04/2012 and 01/2013….”

Grech draws a conclusion:

“This study highlights the importance of measurement of cause and effect since anticipated results may not always ensue from events.”

(Thanks to Gwinyai Masukume for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Victor Grech is also known for his study “Infertility in Star Trek.”

The Logic of Absurdity – and the puzzle of leadership irrelevance

May 15th, 2017

“Leaders are often thought to be instrumental to the performance of the organizations they lead. However, considerable research suggests that their influence over organizational performance might actually be minimal. These claims of leader irrelevance pose a puzzle: If leaders are relatively insignificant, why would someone commit to leading?”

Taking steps towards explaining the puzzle, Daniel Newark (Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at HEC [‘Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales’] Paris, France) introduces the idea of the ‘Logic of Absurdity’ in a new paper for the Academy of Management Review. The ‘Logic of Absurdity’ is, in essence :

“- a decision-making process that can sustain devoted leadership when leaders’ import is negligible. By acknowledging expected insignificance and meeting it with unmerited dedication, absurd leaders maintain their astuteness while tapping into the resilience and freedom of rationally unjustified choice. “

viz. by way of a summary of the current state of affairs :

“Scholars disagree about the fundamental influence and import of leaders. Some claim that their significance is sizable. And an abundance of books, articles, talks, and courses about leadership bolsters this view. Others claim that leaders hardly matter, deeming academics and quasi-academics who say otherwise peddlers of modern day alchemy, proffering fool’s gold to the organizational monarchy and all who wish to be crowned. And still others call for nuance and contingency, responding with a qualified, ‘it depends’.”

See: Leadership and the Logic of Absurdity in Academy of Management Review, pre-print online February 2, 2017

Bonus assignment [optional] : Working on the assumption that leaders can’t exist without followers, is the implication that followers also obey the Logic of Absurdity?

Also see : The Mathematics of Mediocracy

The rise of “jaw-dropping”

May 14th, 2017

The phrase “jaw-dropping” has risen, with jaw-dropping suddenness, in recent times. We ran a Google Ngram data crunch. Here’s the result:

The jaw-dropping rise began in the 1980s. Here’s a look at the portion of that same graph, beginning with the 1970’s  (the 1970’s itself was an era of jaw-droppingly small usage of the phrase “jaw-dropping”):

BONUS: A medical research report called “Dropped jaw—mandibular neurapraxia in the dog” was published in 1976, in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

The Choo Lab’s Humming Generator

May 11th, 2017

Many research groups across the world are in the process of developing so-called ‘Energy Harvesting’ (EH) techniques to extract electrical energy from human actions. (see for example, Implementing a knee-energy harvester). The Choo Lab at Caltech specializes in such things, and researchers there have recently developed a system which is designed to power portable electronic devices by extracting useful energy from vibrations originating in human vocal cords. To be specific, it’s a humming generator.

Harvesting energy from participants who hummed* at 75dB (i.e. around normal voice levels) for 10 minutes, a test prototype was able to generate enough power to charge a battery and “operate a 10-LED array (power consumption: 2.2 V, 10 mA) […] for about a minute.” Or, put another way, enough to illuminate one LED for ten minutes. That’s to say, the device can continuously power an LED, providing its wearer keeps humming.

“Our energy harvesting method will provide a practical and efficient way to harvest energy to power portable electronics anywhere without additional charging apparatus.“

– say the team. Details are published in : ‘Powering Portable Electronics Using Vocal Fold Vibrations’, Cho, Hyunjun, Kyoo Hyun Noh, Tomohiro Ishikawa, Daejong Yang, Edgar Sanchez-Sinencio, and Hyuck Choo. IEEE MEMS, Jan 22–26, 2017, Las Vegas, NV (Oral Presentation).

*note: Also works with shouting (and, presumably, singing)

For another recent example of EH see: ‘A non-resonant, gravity-induced microtriboelectric harvester to collect kinetic energy from low-frequency jiggling movements of human limbs’ Yingxian Lu, Xiaohong Wang, Xiaoming Wu, Jin Qin and Ruochen Lu. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Volume 24, Number 6.

Also don’t miss Trumbull and Johnston’s patented tooth generator.




An invention for deterring monsters, specters, demons, and the like

May 9th, 2017

Devices and implements for deterring monsters, specters, demons, and the like,” is the title of a US patent application 13364587, Filed February 2, 2012 by Kevin M. Crucs of sparsely populated Copley, Ohio, USA. The patent document contains copious details. Among them:

“Devices and implements for staving off monsters, specters, demons and the like as imagined by a child at bedtime. A hand-held controller unit is provided having a user interface, which is capable of being used by the child under the bed covers of a bed. The hand-held controller unit may include any of a walkie-talkie capability, a flashlight capability, a nightlight capability, the capability to activate an external device, and other capabilities. At least one external device may be provided which is capable of being placed beneath the bed and is configured to be activated by the hand-held controller unit. At least one substantially hollow air-through member may be provided which is configured to facilitate airflow between underneath the bed covers of the bed and above the bed covers of the bed. A supplemental bed cover may be provided that is configured to be placed on the bed.”