Eleni Pinnow joins The Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Social Scientists (LFFFHCfSS)

October 20th, 2016

Eleni Pinnow has joined The Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Social Scientists (LFFFHCfSS). She says:

This is a picture of me kissing a redwood tree. I am a Cognitive Psychologist and I study how people process spoken language; mostly, though, I mentor undergraduate research and try to instill the job of the scientific process in my students. I started growing my hair out after tenure because I needed a new challenge. I love my long untamed hair (several students remarked on its similarity to Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School bus).

Eleni Pinnow, Ph.D, LFFFHCfSS
Associate Professor, Psychology
University of Wisconsin, Superior
Superior, Wisconsin, USA


Shadows Cast by Spider Legs, Used in Physics Calculations

October 20th, 2016

Anticipating Halloween, the American Chemical Society has published a study about using the shadows cast by (kinda sorta) spider legs, for scientific purposes. The paper is:

Elegant Shadow Making Tiny Force Visible for Water-Walking Arthropods and Updated Archimedes’ Principle,” Yelong Zheng, Hongyu Lu, Wei Yin, Dashuai Tao, Lichun Shi, and Yu Tian, Langmuir, 2016, 32 (41), pp. 10522–10528.  The authors, at Tsinghua University, China, report:


“Forces acted on legs of water-walking arthropods with weights in dynes are of great interest for entomologist, physicists, and engineers. While their floating mechanism has been recognized, the in vivo leg forces stationary have not yet been simultaneously achieved. In this study, their elegant bright-edged leg shadows are used to make the tiny forces visible and measurable based on the updated Archimedes’ principle. The force was approximately proportional to the shadow area with a resolution from nanonewton to piconewton/pixel. The sum of leg forces agreed well with the body weight measured with an accurate electronic balance, which verified updated Archimedes’ principle at the arthropod level”

(Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: An earlier study that used shadow calculation: the MIT study “The hydrodynamics of water-walking arthropods“, by Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu, and John Bush. Here’s a bit of detail from that study:


The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study

October 20th, 2016

Brain researchers, using advanced fMRI technology, made another unexpected advance toward understanding how the brain does or does not work. Their newly published study is:

The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study,” Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly and Tao Jiang, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 10, October 2016, article 511. The authors, at Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, Sorbonne Universités, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Institut de Biologie Paris Seine, and CNRS,  Neuroscience Paris Seine, Paris, France, explain:

“In this study, we show that a higher percentage of people are disgusted by cheese than by other types of food. Functional magnetic resonance imaging then reveals that the internal and external globus pallidus and the substantia nigra belonging to the basal ganglia are more activated in participants who dislike or diswant to eat cheese (Anti) than in other participants who like to eat cheese, as revealed following stimulation with cheese odors and pictures.”

Here are further details from the study:


(Thanks to Neil Martin for bringing this to our attention.)

A shortest-possible walking tour through the pubs of the UK

October 19th, 2016

A shortest-possible walking tour through the pubs of the United Kingdom — that’s an advanced form of the mathematicians’ favorite, The Traveling Salesman Problem. William Cook and colleagues at the University of Waterloo tackled this nastily complex problem:

Nearly everyone in the UK knows by heart the best path to take them over to their favorite public house. But what about jotting down the shortest route to visit every pub in the country and return home safely? That is what we set out to do….

Using geographic coordinates of 24,727 pubs provided by Pubs Galore and measuring the distance between any two pubs as the length of the route produced by Google Maps, what is the shortest possible tour that visits all 24,727 and returns to the starting point? …

This is the problem we have solved. The optimal tour has length 45,495,239 meters. To be clear, our main result is that there simply does not exist any pub tour that is even one meter shorter (measuring the length using the distances we obtained from Google) than the one produced by our computation. It is the solution to a 24,727-city traveling salesman problem (TSP).

The UK Pubs tour is easily the largest such road-distance TSP that has been solved to date, having over 100 times more stops than any road-distance example solved previously by other research groups.

Here’s one low-resolution sliver of what is a much more detailed map of the tour:


(Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: William Cook’s book on the history of the Traveling Salesman Problem.

Nominative determinism: Dr. Waschbusch, gynecologist

October 19th, 2016

An anonymous patient sends this example of nominative determinism:

laurewaschbuschGynecologist Laure J. Waschbusch (pronounced ‘wash bush’) has a practice near St. Paul / Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the U.S.”