The formal advance of the research on beer-vs-coffee spilling

February 25th, 2015

dressaireThe research on why foamy liquid (such as beer or latte) is less likely to slosh out of a cup than non-foamy liquid (such as black coffee), has now been formally published. The study is:

Damping of liquid sloshing by foams,” A. Sauret, F. Boulogne, J. Cappello, Emilie Dressaire [pictured here] and H.A. Stone, Physics of Fluids, vol. 27, 022103 (2015).

The slosh team presented their work in public a few months ago, at the Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics.

A few years, earlier, that annual meeting went gaga, to a very limited degree, for a research presentation about why a cup of coffee is so very easy to spill (or, looked at from the other direction, why it’s so difficult to NOT spill a cup of coffee). That coffee-spill research was eventually honored with the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for fluid dynamics. Here’s the Ig Nobel citation for that prize:

Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

REFERENCE: “Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?” Hans C. Mayer and Rouslan Krechetnikov, Physical Review E, vol. 85, 2012.

In 2013, that coffee-spill research was the subject of a dramatic demonstration by Karolinska neuroscientist Gustav Nilsonne, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Here is an action photo from that demonstration:


A month from now, Gustav Nilsonne will perhaps repeat that demonstration, with both coffee and beer, when the 2015 Ig Nobel Eurotour descends on the Karolinka Institute, on Monday afternoon, March 30. (There will be a second show in Stockholm, at Boulevardteatern, in the evening.)

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

Camp vs. Kitsch: music investigations

February 25th, 2015

For those unsure about the sometimes-misunderstood difference between ‘Kitsch’ and ‘Camp’, Dr. Freya Jarman, who is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Music at the University of Liverpool, UK, provides a concise definition :

“Camp enjoys and glorifies its own awfulness where kitsch doesn‘t realise it.”

Dr. Jarman researches how ‘camp’ works, musically. See, for example: ‘Notes on Musical Camp’, in: The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology, ed. Derek B. Scott. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2009), 189-203, which cites this 1969 performance by (the late) Liberace :

Unfortunately, another reference-video cited in the paper, Charlotte Church – Don’t Rain On My Parade appears to be damaged, so instead, with the definition above in mind . . .

Here is an Improbable mini-cornucopia of possible camp / kitsch renditions which might serve as a starting point for comparisons along the lines of – Camp? Kitsch? Neither? Both?

● Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart
● Queen – I Want To Break Free
● Cliff Richard – Bachelor Boy
● Pet Shop Boys – Go West
● Rammstein – Seemann
● The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Canyons Of Your Mind
● Boney M – Daddy Cool
● Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
● Lang Lang – Schubert Standchen (Serenade)
● Mick Jagger & David Bowie – Dancing In The Street
● Robbie Williams – You Know Me
● Kenneth Williams – The Marrow Song (Oh! What a Beauty!)
● Katy Perry – California Gurls (featuring Snoop Dogg)

The ten-percenters: The hot, hot men who pinch copper

February 24th, 2015

For young and youngish men of a certain disposition (regarding copper), these are exciting times, as this medical report attests.

The report is: “Electrical burn injuries secondary to copper theft,” J.A. Dunne, D. J. Wilks, D.P. Mather, and J.M. Rawlins, European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, epub 2015. The authors, at St George’s Hospital, London, Leeds General Infirmary, Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, and Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia, report:

We would like to highlight copper theft as an international cause for high voltage electrical injury, with an illustration of cases over a 5-year period from the Yorkshire regional burns unit in the United Kingdom (UK)….

Copper price has risen dramatically in recent years, with a six-fold increase over the past decade and a large demand from booming economies such as China. Metal theft is one of the fastest rising crimes in the UK…

The risk of burns in this activity is significant, and may account for up to 10% of electrical burns presenting to a regional unit…

All cases were males, aged 22, 25 and 42 years, sustaining burns of 32, 45 and 16.5 % total body surface area (TBSA), respectively. All patients survived, and there was a mean length of stay of 47 days (range 32–59) and all patients were involved in theft from 11,000 V electrical substations.

(Thanks to investigator Adrian Smith for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s a video news report of a case of possible copper theft in a different country:

Conceivabilism, inconceivabilism and someone with 200 arms and legs

February 23rd, 2015

Dr-ElsterSometimes, philosophers like to construct highly exaggerated imaginary scenarios in order to test the validity of theories – conjuring up, for example, human bodies with a pair of spare eyes in their shoulders. Since there’s  no  very little limit on how exaggerated such propositions might be, some take on outlandish proportions. Such ideas can push the boundaries of what philosophers call ‘Conceivabilism’ (which considers that which can be reasonably conceived) and stray into the territory of what Improbable calls ‘Inconceivabilism’ (that which can’t).

Some examples are presented in a paper by Dr. Jakob Elster (pictured) from the University of Oslo, Norway in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 28, No. 3, p. 201 entitled : How Outlandish Can Imaginary Cases Be?

Dr. Elster cites the work of professor Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen of Aarhus University, Denmark, specifically the paper ‘Against Self-Ownership: There Are No Fact-Insensitive Ownership Rights over One’s Body’ in: Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2008, p. 86-118. which he says, is “a cornucopia of outlandish cases.” e.g.:

“Let us consider an eye redistribution scheme in which half the population is born with two pairs of eyes and the other half with no eyes. In sighted individuals, one pair of eyes is located normally and fulfills the usual function. The other pair is located inside the human body, say, in the shoulder. Although this latter pair would enable those who have them to see if they were surgically moved to the eye sockets, they play no role where they are. Indeed they cannot perform any visual or other bodily function without being moved. Suppose further that the body of a person born with two pairs of eyes will expel the spare pair when that person reaches twenty years of age. The pair can then easily be reabsorbed into the shoulder of its owner, or the owner can transfer his spare eyes to a blind person.”

Or, instead, or additionally :

“Suppose, for instance, that people are born with huge bodies they can barely move, bodies with two hundred legs and arms. At any given moment, they can at best sense and control 1 percent of their bodies, although they can readily determine which percent that is. Since their bodies heal very easily, their ability to control their lives is promoted best if 99 percent of each body is removed in such a way that these abnormal individuals end up with what are, for us, normal human bodies.”

Are such outlandishisms justified, or indeed helpful? Dr. Elster concludes his paper thus :

“I have argued that we do sometimes need to consider outlandish cases in order to arrive at the true moral principles which we need for this world. But if we are, as I have suggested, unable to imagine these outlandish cases, we might never be able to identify the true moral principles we need. So even if we adopt a ‘method of avoidance’, bracketing general scepticism for the purpose of developing a sound ethical methodology, a new form of scepticism reappears as the result of this methodological discussion. How this new scepticism can be dealt with is an issue for further investigation.”

Mario Ettore Giardini joins Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)

February 22nd, 2015

Mario Ettore Giardini has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). He says:

I am a biomedical engineer, and I design instruments for field medicine,to support healthcare in the remotest areas of the world. Hair has only little to do with my research, and this is why I need plenty of it.

Mario Ettore Giardini, Ph.D, LFHCfS
Lecturer in Digital Health
Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, UK