Non-Word and Word Noises During Sex [research study]

July 17th, 2018

An Examination of Predictors of Nonverbal and Verbal Communication of Pleasure During Sex and Sexual Satisfaction,” Elizabeth A. Babin, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, vol. 30, no. 3 2013, pp. 270-292. (Thanks to Ig Nobel Prize winner Geoffrey Miller for bringing these to our attention.) The author, at Cleveland State University, reports:

“Verbal communication during sex did not predict sexual satisfaction. The findings draw attention to the need for scholars to examine both verbal and nonverbal forms of sexual communication, as well as factors that might influence the extent to which individuals communicate sexual pleasure during sexual encounters…. The original scale reported in Brogan et al. (2009) asked participants to report on their partner’s communication during sex. To fit the needs of this study, the SCSS [Sexual Communication Style Scale] was adapted to measure participants’ own communication during sex.”

Read that and more, in the column “Improbable Sex” [free, downloadable PDF], in the special NOISE issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

For heaps of improbable research, subscribe to the magazine (or if you like, buy single issues). The magazine has six new issues a year, all in PDF form.

10 tips that media library specialists are advised to not follow

July 16th, 2018

What can be done about the troublesome numbers of overdue library books? A set of strategies (10 in number) is provided by Bacon, Pamela S. in the journal Library Media Connection. For example:

• ‘Never allow students to renew a book’

• ‘No matter what the question . . . always say no first’

• ‘Practice saying “shhh” with as much resentment as you can manage’


The author clarifies :

“Obviously, you’ve figured out by now that no practicing media library specialist would ever follow these 10 tips. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that overdues weren’t so bad after all.”

– in the sense that the implication is that students are actually reading more rather than less, and are probably also sharing books amongst their friends.

“Sure, overdues still bother me – but given the alternative I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

See: Don’t Overdo Worrying about Overdues! Library Media Connection, v24 n3 p45.

Observation: Should you require more info on research into ‘overdues’, then the following is also of note :

“Very little research on overdues and fines has been carried out at UK university libraries; this study aims to address this gap in the literature.”

The quote is from a 2013 study, performed at Leeds University, UK, which not only examined the reasons why students don’t return books on time (for example, because they forgot, because they didn’t realise it was overdue, or had lost it &etc.) but also suggest a variety of strategies to combat the practice – including a one-off fines amnesty.

See : Overdue books at Leeds University Library Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Volume: 46 issue: 3, page(s): 226-242

Umbrellas blowing inside out – why’s it funny?

July 12th, 2018

What’s funny about watching someone struggle with an unruly umbrella? Few, if any, have come up with a better explanation than W H Auden who took a stab at it in 1952, and came up with two reasons :

“a) An umbrella is a mechanism designed by man to function in a particular manner, and its existence and effectiveness as a protection depend upon man’s understanding of physical laws. An umbrella turning inside out is funnier than a hat blowing off because an umbrella is made to be opened, to change its shape when its owner wills. It now continues to change its shape, in obedience to the same laws, but against his will.

b) The activating agent, the wind, is invisible, so the cause of the umbrella turning inside out appears to lie in the umbrella itself. It is not particularly funny if a tile falls and makes a hole in the umbrella, because the cause is visibly natural.”

See: ‘Notes on the Comic’, Thought: Fordham University Quarterly, Volume 27, Issue 1, Spring 1952. Also re-published in ‘The Dyer’s Hand : and other essays’, 1962

BONUS assignment [optional] Have you got a better explanation?

NEW SERIES OF EVENTS: Improbable Research Table Talks

July 11th, 2018

This month, we’ll begin doing a new kind of Improbable Research event: Improbable Research Table Talks. The first event will happen on Monday morning, July 16.

At each Improbable Research Table Talk, Marc Abrahams (editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, and founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) will chat with you about one or another research study that makes people laugh, then think. Some of these studies have won Ig Nobel Prizes; others we have explored in the magazine, in the podcast, etc.

These chats will be cozy, informal, and brief, around a table. Sometimes Marc will bring along a professor, physician, engineer, or other famous or infamous researcher.

Please join us!

The first Improbable Table Talk

The first talk will be Monday, July 16, 2018, at 10 am, at Toscanini’s Ice Cream, 159 First St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. It will include special guest researcher Gus Rancatore, proprietor of Toscanini’s. Bring friends and colleagues, if you like. The event is free.

Future Improbable Table Talks

We will announce many of these talks on the Improbable events schedule.

If you are in the Boston area (or not far beyond it), and would like to gather a few friends and host an Improbable Research Table Talk at your favorite coffee shop, office, lab, library, school, or other cozy place, please get in touch with us.

Primate Social Behavior in the Operating Room [research study]

July 11th, 2018

Ig Nobel Prize winner Frans de Waal and colleagues purlished a new study, using old techniques to study a little-studied kind of primate: human surgeons at work in an operating room.

The study is: “Ethological Observations of Social Behavior in the Operating Room,” Laura K. Jones, Bonnie Mowinski Jennings, Melinda K. Higgins, and Frans B.M. de Waal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  no. 201716883, July 2, 2018. (Thanks to Philipp Weisser for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

“Hierarchy and gender composition affect the balance of cooperation and conflict on surgical teams. In this investigation, behavior was quantified with methods traditionally used to study nonhuman primate groups. Observers used an ethogram to timestamp 6,348 spontaneous social interactions from 200 surgical procedures. Conflict and cooperation in the operating room [OR] showed a significant interaction effect with regard to professional roles (e.g., conflict was initiated mostly down the hierarchy between individuals several ranks apart) and by gender interaction (e.g., cooperation was better if the attending surgeon’s gender differed from that of the team majority)…. Instead of using post-hoc questionnaires, which are unreliable and often self-serving, we wanted to record actual behavior and relate it to hierarchy and gender. Our findings show that the OR is a microcosm of typical primate social tendencies.”

Katie Langen writes about the study, in Science magazine: “Yelling, cursing less likely to break out in operating rooms when female surgeons are present.”

The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for anatomy was awarded to Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

REFERENCE for that prize-winning research: “Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception” Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 99–103, 2008.