The naturally agglomerated state

November 21st, 2015

Some particle analyzers do not include a free fall model, a non-inclusion that can be frustrating for individuals of a certain temperament when they wish to  analyze samples in their naturally agglomerated state. Investigator Pam Razin writes to inform us the the Cilas model #118o does not suffer from this deficiency. Its manufacturer explicitly states:

The 1180 includes a free fall module for customers wishing to analyze samples in their naturally agglomerated state.

Razin supplies no corresponding data — that is, he supplies a non-agglomeration of data — as regards other models and makes of particle-size analyzers.

Ellipsis in English Literature

November 20th, 2015

Dr. Anne Toner, of the Faculty of English at Trinity College Cambridge, UK, studies varieties of incompleteness in literary works. She has recently published a book which focusses on a particular incompleteness signifier: Ellipsis in English Literature : Signs of Omission. The publisher notes :

Anne.TonerAnne Toner provides an original account of the history of ellipsis marks – dots, dashes and asterisks – in English literary writing. Highlighting ever-renewing interest in these forms of non-completion in literature, Toner demonstrates how writers have striven to get closer to the hesitancies and interruptions of spoken language, the indeterminacies of thought, and the successive or fragmented nature of experience by means of these textual symbols.”

Improbable would have liked to have provided more detail about the work, but our attempts to contact both the author and the publisher met with little if any success …
Questions [optional]
• What is the plural form of ‘Ellipsis’ ? Ellipsises or Ellipses?
• Is there a significant difference between three dots . . . and the triple dot glyph ?
• What is the function of the ‘mid-line’ ellipsis ?
• What happens when an ellipsis ends a sentence, is the correct form … . ?

The Butcher’s Tongue Illusion (update)

November 19th, 2015

Could we inform those who wish to experiment in a hands-on practical way with the Butcher’s Tongue Illusion (which we highlighted [highlit?] back in Oct 2014, see:The Butcher’s Tongue Illusion (from the chip-crunch manipulator’), that the paper provides a link to DiscountMagic where fake tongues (like the one used in the experiments) can be purchased for £6.50 (+ “Only another £18.50 for free UK shipping”)

Pigeons as Trained Observers in the War on Cancer

November 18th, 2015

Pigeons may be as good as some bad radiologists, in some ways, maybe, suggests this new study:

Pigeons (Columba livia) as Trainable Observers of Pathology and Radiology Breast Cancer Images,” Richard M. Levenson, Elizabeth A. Krupinski, Victor M. Navarro, and Edward A. Wasserman, PLoS ONE, 10(11): e0141357. (Thanks to Ig Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Oberzaucher for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at University of California Davis, the University of Iowa, and Emory University, report:

pigeon radiology

“We report here that pigeons (Columba livia)—which share many visual system properties with humans—can serve as promising surrogate observers of medical images, a capability not previously documented. The birds proved to have a remarkable ability to distinguish benign from malignant human breast histopathology after training with differential food reinforcement; even more importantly, the pigeons were able to generalize what they had learned when confronted with novel image sets. The birds’ histological accuracy, like that of humans, was modestly affected by the presence or absence of color as well as by degrees of image compression, but these impacts could be ameliorated with further training. Turning to radiology, the birds proved to be similarly capable of detecting cancer-relevant microcalcifications on mammogram images. However, when given a different (and for humans quite difficult) task—namely, classification of suspicious mammographic densities (masses)—the pigeons proved to be capable only of image memorization and were unable to successfully generalize when shown novel examples.”

BONUS: The 1995 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, of Keio University, for their success in training pigeons to discriminate between the paintings of Picasso and those of Monet. [details of that research are in the study “Pigeons’ Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso,” Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, vol. 63, 1995, pp. 165-174.]

BONUS: Surgical pathology and bird-watching

UPDATE (thanks to Tom Levenson): Video that accompanies the study:

BONUS: Kinect and pigeon behavior, with another look at the video of B.F. Skinner explaining how he trains pigeons:

Podcast #38: Color preference in the insane, with frozen mammoth

November 18th, 2015

Color preference in the insane, the red sweat of the hippopotamus, the question of whether The Explorer’s Club served a dinner of thawed, roast woolley mammoth, and how surgeons handle pop-up surprises — all of these turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

LISTEN TO IT! …or click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

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

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

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 web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).