Some — but only some — say never pre-sieve the sediment

March 19th, 2017

“Many archaeobotanists say never pre-sieve the sediment sample, since they think sieving may break up the charred material. I think it can be equally bad to let large rocks and sherds bang around in the flotation tank.”

—So writes Naomi F. Miller [pictured here] in “Recovering Macroremains by Manual Flotation and Sieving.”

Coffee and Cancer: A Bad News Burp for Modern Science Journalism

March 18th, 2017

A newly published study is bad news for news organizations — it’s a burp in the stream of guaranteed-attention-getting medical reports that suggest coffee-drinking might cause cancer. The study is:

Coffee and Cancer Risk: A Summary Overview,” Gianfranco Alicandro [pictured here], Alessandra Tavani, and Carlo La Vecchia, European Journal of Cancer Prevention, epub March 2017. The authors, at the University of Milan, report:

“We reviewed available evidence on coffee drinking and the risk of all cancers and selected cancers updated to May 2016. Coffee consumption is not associated with overall cancer risk.”

The trick of making Sudoku games

March 18th, 2017

The MathWithBadDrawings blog looks at how complicated — or, rather simple — it is to create lots and lots of sudoku games:

“Now, I’m not much of a Sudoku player. (Crossword guy, to be honest.) But glancing at the puzzle, my dad and I got to wondering: How do they generate these puzzles? We weren’t sure. So we found a more tractable question: What if you were a lazy Sudoku maker?…”

“Well, let’s start with this: the numbers don’t actually matter. For example, you could switch the 1’s and the 2’s. Nothing really changes. Every row still has a 1 and a 2. So does every column. So does every medium square. The symbols in Sudoku are meaningless. It doesn’t matter what they are—numbers, letters, emoji. It just matters where they are….”

Ig Nobel at Imperial College London, Friday evening

March 16th, 2017

The big Ig Nobel show at Imperial College London happens Friday evening, March 17, 2017, starting at 6 pm.

WHERE: IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, UK — in The Great Hall, the Sherfield Building, South Kensington campus. TICKETS: The event is booked full.. But… some seats are likely to become available at the last minute or so. If you arrive at the Great Hall a bit early and take your chances, you just might be able to get a ticket.

It features: Marc Abrahams / Ig Nobel Prize winners Raghavendra Rau (some business leaders acquire a taste for disasters that do not affect them personally), Thomas Thwaites (living as a goat), Elizabeth Oberzaucher (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children) / the QI Elves doing dramatic readings from bizarre-seeming research studies / David Kilgour explaining why Britain’s Ministry of Defence is so, um, efficient.

Details of that show and the entire Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour, are on our events page.

Towards an automatic branded-handbag recognition system

March 16th, 2017

“Manufacturing branded handbags is a big business in the fashion world. Shoppers’ feedback showing photos of their purchased handbags in social networks or blogs is important for branding purposes. In this paper, we deal with handbag recognition.”

So explain researchers Yan Wang, Sheng Li and Alex C. Kot of the Rapid-Rich Object Search (ROSE) Laboratory, at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The team used Convolutional Neural Networks (and other algorithms) on (what is believed to be) the first handbag datasets constructed for branded handbag recognition.

“The experimental results show that our method performs very well on recognizing handbags. In our future work, more elaborate patch partition methods are needed to deal with the nonrigid deformation of handbags.”

See: On Branded Handbag Recognition in IEEE Transactions on Multimedia (Volume: 18, Issue: 9, Sept. 2016)

Also see: Horse recognition and Cow recognition.