Waterside properties – the financial ups and downs.

July 18th, 2016

The question : ‘If your house is at risk of flooding, does that make it worth less?’ – has been answered by investigators at the Department of Economics, East Carolina University, US. The research team used a Semiparametric Hedonic Price Function Model combined with Geographic Information System data on National Flood Insurance Program flood zones to evaluate hazards in the coastal housing market of Carteret County, North Carolina. The results were clearcut :

“[…] location within a flood zone lowers property value.“

The team’s paper was presented in the March 2008 issue of the Journal of Risk & Insurance.


Before jumping (in)to any financially-significant conclusions though, property owners and potential buyers might like to see a previous study – from the same (lead) author, Profesor Okmyung Bin. Back in 2005, he carried out a somewhat related research project – again examining the effects of proximity to water (in particular open water wetlands) on property values.

“The results indicate that proximity to open water wetlands has a positive association with property values […]“

See: A semiparametric hedonic model for valuing wetlands in: Applied Economics Letters, Volume 12, Issue 10.

[The illustration depicts the devatating Burchardi flood of 1634.]

Can a bird use a human as an artistic tool?

July 17th, 2016

Can a bird use a human as a tool to express its artistic ideas? Discuss.


This performance is by Compagnie Le Guetteur – Luc Petton.  Thanks to Laura Bassett for bringing it to our attention.

Geotrichum candidum (fungus) might destroy your CDs?

July 17th, 2016

Many thanks to Dr. Victor Cardenes of the Department Geology and Soil Science at Ugent, Belgium, who provides us with a photo of a music CD being colonised by Geotrichum candidum (or a near relative).

CDanterior Whilst working in Belize, Dr. Cardenes noticed that a CD ‘Pieces of Africa’ by the Kronos Quartet, showed mysterious markings that looked distinctly biological in nature. [see bottom left-hand quartile in the photo above].

“At that time I didn’t know what was going on on the CD, I’m a geologist and know little about fungus […]. At the Spanish Museum of Natural History we did some research (mostly SEM). We already realized that the tracks were biological, so we looked for a biologist. The Center of Biotechnology in Madrid took the CD and I didn’t see it any more. They did fungi cultures and fancy experiments that I would never understand.”

The results of the experiments were documented in a 2001 paper for the journal Naturwissenschaften, 88(8):351-4, entitled: ‘Fungal bioturbation paths in a compact disk’ [full paper with more photos]. The research team noted implications for those involved in data archiving based on CDs or DVDs :

“The fact that intense biodeterioration in CDs, destroying the information pits, has been caused by a common fungus (a species close to G. candidum) leads to speculation on the future of compact disks as a secure persistent storage medium for sound, image and computer files.”

BONUS Dr Cardenes alerts us to Stanislaw Lem‘s science-fictional world described in his novel ‘Memoirs Found in a Bathtub’ in which a virus, begins destroying paper on Earth, reducing (almost) all human records to mounds of grey, powdery ash.

Question [optional] If CDs can be attacked by fungi, might other polycarbonate items also be at risk – riot shields, ocarinas, and/or iPhone 5c cases etc.?

A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon

July 16th, 2016

Pokémon scholarship reached its height with the study “A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon“,  by Matan Shelomi, Andrew Richards, Ivana Li, and Yukinari Okido, which was published in the Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 18, no 4, June/July 2012. Here’s a bit of detail from that study (click on the image to see the entire study):


Aggie TV interviewed three of the researchers:

Their institution, The University of California, Davis, wrote about the study and its impact.

Pokémon is the latest once-obscure academic topic to become wildly popular (thanks in this case to the Pokémon Go app) with the public.

Thanks to the Pokémon Go app, Pokémon characters now inhabit many academic institutions. Here is an action photo taken this week at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam (the institution famed for its role in Dead Duck Day):



Katy Croff Bell joins Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)

July 16th, 2016

Katy Croff Bell has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). She says:

I believe that there is a linear relationship between my hair length and scientific prowess. I have had luxuriant flowing hair since 1991, when I won 2nd place at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair, thus launching my scientific career. I am now an oceanographer and find that the best place for my hair to enjoy its natural state is at sea, in particular in the seat of the crane where it can flow luxuriantly.

Kay Croff Bell, Ph.D, LFHCfS
VP, Exploration & Research
Ocean Exploration Trust
Old Lyme, Connecticut, USA