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


Sharp shaped vegetation lifts property prices (new study)

July 15th, 2016

Residential property owners who want increase the sale price of their property can try a new way of adding value – plant some palm trees out front. See: ‘Money in your palm: Sharp shaped vegetation in the surroundings increase the subjective value of houses.’ Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 46, June 2016, Pages 176–187

“We demonstrated that houses surrounded by sharp leaf vegetation (SLV) were evaluated as more expensive than houses surrounded by round leaf vegetation (RLV)”

Sharp-Beats-RoundThus, the house shown above right was rated (by non-expert experimental raters recruited through Amazon MTurk) as being worth less than the same house when shown surrounded by palm-like vegetation.  But, you may ask, “Why?” In which case, the authors have an explanation for you :

“The perceived higher values and safety of houses surrounded by palms is attributed to the association of palms with suitable and stable living environments. Furthermore, preference for palm habitats may have deep roots of human evolution in African savannas.”

Coming Soon : The ups and downs of waterside properties

Evaporation of a Drop of Ouzo

July 14th, 2016

If you dribble a drop of ouzo  (which ouzo vendors assure us is Greece’s most popular drink) a dribbling that can easily happen if you have drunk many drops of ouzo, what happens to that drop? A newly published study peers tightly at that question:

“Evaporation-triggered microdroplet nucleation and the four life phases of an evaporating Ouzo drop,” Huanshu Tan, Christian Diddens, Pengyu Lyu, Hans Kuerten, Xuehua Zhang, and Detlef Lohse, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, July 15, 2016. (And there’s a shorter, downloadable version.) The ouzo researchers are at University of Twente, The Netherlands, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands; Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia; and eMax Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Germany. Here’s a bit of detail from the study:

“[There are] four life phases: In phase I, the spherical cap-shaped droplet remains transparent while the more volatile ethanol is evaporating, preferentially at the rim of the drop because of the singularity there. This leads to a local ethanol concentration reduction and correspondingly to oil droplet nucleation there. This is the beginning of phase II, in which oil microdroplets quickly nucleate in the whole drop, leading to its milky color that typifies the so-called “Ouzo effect.” Once all ethanol has evaporated, the drop, which now has a characteristic nonspherical cap shape, has become clear again, with a water drop sitting on an oil ring (phase III), finalizing the phase inversion. Finally, in phase IV, all water has evaporated, leaving behind a tiny spherical cap-shaped oil drop.”


The University of Twente produced a celebratory press release. A couple of videos illustrate these goings on:

BONUS: An old video of how ouzo is said to be made:

BONUS: A look back at an effect of too much whisky and candlelight. (This, too, was Dutch research.)

Is Pilates a racial enclave or implicator of whiteness?

July 13th, 2016

Jerry Coyne, writing on the blog Evolution is True, is hopped up about a study about hips. Coyne says:

The author proceeds to demonstrate that Pilates is “the embodiment of whiteness,” using just the two Pilates exercises named in the abstract. These exercises, she claims, “purposely train the body to stabilize the pelvis”, which she considers racist.

The study is: “The Pilates Pelvis: Racial Implications of the Immobile Hips,” Sarah W. Holmes, Dance Research Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, August 2014, pp 57-72. The author, at the University of New Mexico, explains:


This article examines the treatment of the pelvis in the Pilates exercises ‘Single Leg Stretch’ and ‘Leg Circles.’ The teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially “white” aesthetic. Central to this article is the troubling notion of white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors. Using the two Pilates exercises, I illuminate how perceived kinesthetic understandings of race in the body may be normalized and privileged. By examining the intersections between dance and Pilates history, this article reveals the ways embodied discourses in Pilates are ‘white’ in nature, and situates Pilates as a product of historically constructed social behaviors of dominant Anglo-European culture.

(Thanks to Jane Evans for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s a Pilates video from the White Cloud Pilates Studio: