Behold the evasive leap behavior of a spooked squirrel

January 24th, 2015

“This video shows a series of clips of ground squirrels responding to a spring-loaded device that uncoils toward them at the same velocity at which rattlesnakes strike,” writes Rulon Clark of San Diego State University.

Clark adds:

All responses are shown slowed down to one-quarter regular speed. Squirrels either scrambled away from the spring (first set of clips in video), or exhibited an evasive leap, jumping into the air and contorting their bodies with the tail (second set of clips). Squirrels that had recently interacted with rattlesnakes at that site, and that exhibited tail flagging signals, responded more quickly to the device, and were more likely to exhibit an evasive leap than a scramble.

Further details are at his web site, and in the study “The fear of unseen predators: ground squirrel tail flagging in the absence of snakes signals vigilance“, Breanna J. Putman and Rulon W. Clark, Behavioral Ecology, epub 2014.

Also see Susan Milius’s essay about this, in Science News: “Why ground squirrels go ninja over nothing

A dance of the slime molds

January 24th, 2015

Tchaikovsky and Science In Seconds and some slime molds team up, sort of, to present this pasticcio performance:

BONUS: Slime mold delights, for bread enthusiasts

The Bowler Hat as a banking icon

January 23rd, 2015

How has the Bowler Hat featured as part of the iconography of the banking industry? For answers, turn to Jane Davison, BA (Liverpool), MA, PhD (London), FCA, FHEA, who is Professor of Accounting at the Royal Holloway, University of London. The professor’s paper on the subject ‘Icon, iconography, iconology Visual branding, banking and the case of the bowler hat’ was published in the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 22 No. 6, 2009 pp. 883-906, and focuses attention on the use of the bowler icon by (what was) the UK’s Bradford & Bingley financial institution.

Bowler-B_and_BThe financial statements are almost silent regarding brands, in line with regulation. In response to the greater competition that accompanied deregulation and globalisation, the Bank’s lending and funding practices become more innovative. The visual framework reveals a changing iconography and iconology where class, detectives, music hall and the bowler-object may be discerned. An iconology is suggested of dreamlike connotations and magical powers in the collective unconscious. The Bradford & Bingley have actively managed their visual branding to reflect and appeal to a changing society, and a more competitive business environment.”

Notes: Bradford & Bingley was “taken into public ownership” (viz. rescued by the Bank of England) after the company’s share price fell to £0.20 in Sep. 2008.

It had previously registered the UK trademark which depicted four bowler hats blowing away in the wind (UK2168259). B&B also owned what was said to be Stan Laurel’s bowler hat, which it had reportedly purchased for £2,000 in 1995, and which was displayed at their offices.

Improbable has not been able to verify the current location of the hat.

The Self-Acupressure-to-Overcome-Constipation Experiment

January 22nd, 2015

There is (people say) more than one way to skin a cat. So too are there multiple ways to overcome constipation. Here’s a newly documented way:

Effect of Perineal Self-Acupressure on Constipation: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Ryan Abbott, Ian Ayres [pictured below], Ed Hui, and Ka-Kit Hui, Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2014, pp. 1-6. (Thanks to investigator Toby Sommer for bringing this to our attention. The authors, at the University of California, Los Angeles and at Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles, report :

“We aimed to evaluate whether perineal self-acupressure would improve patient reports of quality of life and bowel function at 4 weeks after training…. Among patients with constipation, perineal self-acupressure improves self-reported assessments of quality of life, bowel function, and health and well-being relative to providing standard constipation treatment options alone.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


Here’s an appreciative writeup in the Yale Alumni Magazine:

A law professor’s theory about relieving constipation is put to the test

Originally considered an insult

January 21st, 2015

“Regularly Ig Nobel awards ceremony for the curious scientific studies were originally considered an insult, today they mostly proudly awards (recently including our domestic scientists). Analysis of mortality individual chess pieces and related research by this award could aspire too.”

—from the article “Kdo přežije?” in the January 12, 2015 issue of Hospodářské Noviny, [machine-translated by Google, from the original Czech]