Strange counting questions

May 25th, 2018

Here are some strange counting questions, gathered under the informative headline “Strange Counting Questions.


The Solubility of Salt : A Divine Action Account (new thesis)

May 24th, 2018

The next time you sprinkle a few grains of salt into your soup, then, if you have the time for it, you could consider the theological implications of doing so. To assist with your considerations, don’t miss the work of Professor Lisanne D’Andrea Winslow of the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, MN, US, who has written (along with colleague Professor Walter J. Schultz) an extensive thesis on the subject of ‘The Solubility of Salt: A Divine Action Account’.

The professors remind readers of the standard ‘chemical’ model of salt :

“An ionic bond is formed when one atom accepts or donates one or more of its valence electrons to another atom. In a standard chemistry explanation, an ionic bond is considered the electrostatic force of attraction between two oppositely charged ions; the resultant compound is referred to as a salt. The salt molecule (here we will confine our discussion to the salt NaCl, but this chemistry applies to all ionic bond salt compounds such as CaCl2, KCl, KI, and so on), has the capacity and tendency to self-associate in a higher-order lattice structure known as a salt crystal, commonly known as table salt.”

And then go on to give explanations (in terms of Divine Compositionalism) as what might be happening when you dissolve it in water. A flavour of which may be appreciated via this short extract :

The full implications can probably only be fully absorbed by buying a copy of the paper (£30 for 24 hours access, or 30 days access for the entire journal issue at £166), which is published in the current issue of the journal Theology and Science, Volume 16, 2018 – Issue 1.

Note: Dispositional philosophers are reminded, in footnote 17, that :

“[…] this analysis accounts for “finkish” dispositions, antidotes, and mimickers. See C. B. Martin, “Dispositions and Conditionals,” The Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1994): 1–8, Alexander Bird, “Dispositions and Antidotes,” Philosophical Quarterly 48 (1998): 227–34, and David Lewis, “Finkish Dispositions,” The Philosophical Quarterly 47 (1997): 143–58.”

Julie loves raspberries

May 24th, 2018

Gotta love solicitation bots! We especially like this particular variation on an all-too-frequent kind of “hey editor” solicitation. Our own blog post was about orangutans “blowing raspberries“:


hey Marc,

Hope you’re having a good day, sorry to interrupt you 

I’m emailing because I found a page on your site that mentions something about raspberries:…/orang-utans-blow-raspberries-…/

I’m with [COMPANY NAME REDACTED] and we made a huge post about growing your own raspberries, and I think it’s super useful.

You can see it here: [URL REDACTED]

If you like it, maybe you’d link it from your site? 

Many thanks,

The old lady, the young man, and the swallowed shrew

May 23rd, 2018

In the title of this blog post, the old lady is hypothetical, the young man is real, and so is the shrew.

The old lady appears in this item in the Cardunculus blog:

One of the cats was sick in the gravel, but the Systems Administrator had to clear it up as I was out at the time.  The sick apparently contained what initially appeared to be an enormous fur-ball, but turned out to be an entire shrew, swallowed whole.  On being told of this event I composed a short verse:

There was an old lady who swallowed a shrew
What an odd thing to do
To swallow a shrew
Perhaps she’ll spew

It was that sort of day really.

The young man, quite real, appears in the research study honored by the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for archaeology. That prize was awarded to Brian Crandall and Peter Stahl, for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.

The study is: “Human Digestive Effects on a Micromammalian Skeleton,” Peter W. Stahl and Brian D. Crandall, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 22, November 1995, pp. 789–97.

An hour of Improbable Research, in the crucible of Standards & Technology

May 22nd, 2018

Historic video:  An hour of improbable research, presented at the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] in 2014—with Marc Abrahams [founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony] and Theo Gray [2002 Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize winner for inventing the 4-legged periodic table table.]

Here’s the official NIST description of this event:

Dung beetles finding their way home via the Milky Way. Calculating the forces acting on a ponytail. Preventing patients from exploding during colonoscopies. What do these real-life scientific studies have in common? They were all recipients of the Ig Nobel Prize, the brainchild of the April 25, 2014, NIST Colloquium speaker, Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of the Annals of Improbable Research. In his talk, Abrahams entertained NIST staff with a set of haphazardly selected examples of Ig Nobel Prize-winning and other research “that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.”