“Can’t imagine why more people don’t study…”

February 8th, 2016

Professor Stephanie Carvin remarks (on Twitter): “Can’t imagine why more people don’t study Public Poli…..Zzzzzzzz“.

Professor Carvin said this upon reading the abstract to the study “Understanding and influencing the policy process,” by Christopher M. Weible , Tanya Heikkila, Peter deLeon, and Paul A. Sabatier, published in the March 2012 issue (volume 45, number 1) of the journal Public Policy. The abstract says:

This essay translates some of the underlying logic of existing research of policy processes into a set of strategies for shaping policy agendas and influencing policy development and change. The argument builds from a synthesized model of the individual and a simplified depiction of the political system. Three overarching strategies are introduced that operate at the policy subsystem level: developing deep knowledge; building networks; and participating for extended periods of time. The essay then considers how a democratic ethic can inform these strategies. Ultimately, the success or failure of influencing the policy process is a matter of odds, but these odds could be changed favorably if individuals employ the three strategies consistently over time. The conclusion contextualizes the arguments and interprets the strategies offered as a meta-theoretical argument of political influence.

The full article is 21 pages long.

BONUS: We have found, by experiment, that this abstract becomes even more interesting if you read it aloud with several friends, each of you reading alternate individual words.

Banana shape(s) – the math(s)

February 8th, 2016

Have you ever mused upon the question: ‘Is the cross section of a banana an ellipsoid, and if so, can it be used to gauge its volume and surface area? Yes? Then a report in the International Journal of Agricultural Science, Research and Technology (IJASRT) 2011 Vol. 1 No. 1 pp. 1-5, may be of interest.

“Among fruits and vegetables, banana fruit has exclusive physical properties that make it different from other fruits and vegetables such as shape and curvature. Also banana is one of fruits that need to extract its physical properties as a result of its importance.”

– explain investigators Soltani, M., Alimardani, R. and Omid, M.
of the Department of Agricultural Machinery, Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, University of Tehran, in their paper: ‘Some physical properties of full-ripe banana fruit (Cavendish variety)’. This illustration shows cross sections of bananas, and some of the relevant mathematical calculations.


And so, in answer to the question posed above:

“By ellipsoidal estimation the volume, surface and projected areas is calculated easily and reliably.”

Note: Musa cavendishii has featured in mainstream news media recently, we ask: ‘Has the imminent death of Cavendish been greatly exaggerated, or not?’

Bonus: Professor Banana is co-author of the paper: ‘A socio-economic analysis of forest foods’

How Fireflies Get It On

February 7th, 2016

Sara Lewis reduced her discoveries about firefly sex to 24 seconds, and then to seven words. She performed this, as a 24/7 Lecture, at the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony:

A year before that, Lewis performed a longer version — about thirteen minutes long — as a TED talk:

Appreciation: “No index…, no table of contents…, no order”

February 6th, 2016

“There is no index at the back, no table of contents at the front, and the subjects covered are not arranged in alphabetical, or any other, order. A hotchpotch is a hotchpotch, but not being able to locate or then re-find anything slowly drove me insane with fury. ”

That’s one of the delightful passages in the “Indexes Reviewed” section of issue number 3, of volume 33 — the September 2015 issue — of the journal The Indexer. the international journal of indexing.


Head butting in whales – explanations for junk

February 5th, 2016

“The immense forehead of sperm whales is possibly the largest, and one of the strangest, anatomical structures in the animal kingdom.“

Leading to the question: ‘What’s it for?’ Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby-Dick suggested that one purpose might be for large-scale head-butting, the practicalities of which are reviewed in a new paper for PeerJ PrePrints, entitled :‘Architecture of the sperm whale forehead facilitates ramming combat’ The authors note, regarding the forehead, that :

“It contains two large oil-filled compartments, known as the ‘spermaceti organ’ and ‘junk’, that constitute up to one-quarter of body mass and extend one-third of the total length of the whale.” [see illustration]

WhaleHeadJunkPerhaps, they reason, ‘the junk’ might serve as a kind of macro shock-absorber. And so, to examine their battering-ram hypothesis, they performed Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on a junk-equipped computer model whale head.

“We explore the aggressive ramming hypothesis using a novel combination of structural engineering principles and probabilistic simulation to determine if the unique structure of the junk significantly reduces stress in the skull during quasi-static impact. Our analyses indicate that the connective tissue partitions within the junk reduce stress across the skull during impact; stress reduction is greatest in the anterior aspect of the skull; and removal of the connective tissue partitions increases stress concentrations on the tip of the skull, possibly making it prone to fracture. Although the unique structure of the junk certainly serves multiple functions, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the structure also evolved to function as a massive battering ram during male-male competition.”

Also see (animalian shock-absorber related) : The 2006 Ig Nobel prize for Ornithology was awarded to Ivan R. Schwab, of the University of California Davis, and the late Philip R.A. May of the University of California Los Angeles, for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers don’t get headaches.