Effect of Air Pollution on Professional Baseball Umpires

December 19th, 2018

Professional baseball umpires are not supposed to make errors, yet they sometimes do. This paper suggests that the error rate can rise, for umpires and—who knows?—maybe also for other people who have to make rapid judgement calls.

The study is: “Air Quality and Error Quantity: Pollution and Performance in a High-Skilled, Quality-Focused Occupation,” James Archsmith, Anthony Heyes, and Soodeh Saberian, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5, no. 4, October 2018. (Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.)

The authors, at the University of Maryland and the University of Ottowa, explain: “We provide the first evidence that short-term exposure to air pollution affects the work performance of a group of highly skilled, quality-focused employees. We repeatedly observe the decision making of individual professional baseball umpires, quasi-randomly assigned to varying air quality across time and space. Unique characteristics of this setting combined with high-frequency data disentangle effects of multiple pollutants and identify previously underexplored acute effects. We find that a 1 ppm increase in 3-hour CO causes an 11.5% increase in the propensity of umpires to make incorrect calls and a 10 mg/m3 increase in 12-hour PM2.5 causes a 2.6% increase.”

Anyone who reads the paper carefully will notice that there is a Trick. Specifically, the paper cites a study done by Michael A. Trick and colleagues: “Scheduling major league baseball umpires and the traveling umpire problem,” Michael A. Trick, Hakan Yildiz, and Tallys Yunes, Interfaces, vol. 42, no. 3, 2001, pp. 232–44.

Neither of those papers delves much into the related question of dust. Here’s a short video showing an umpire having to deal with a small, sudden uptick of airborne dust:

Thievery and the power of engineering: It’s not just glitter

December 18th, 2018

Mark Rober engineered a device to surprise people who steal packages from his front porch. His video explaining the device, and showing what happened, is satisfying to watch:

BONUS: The special Miscreant Trapping issue of the Annals of Improbable Research presents many other clever devices, by many clever people, to trap miscreants.

A dog reacting to a person behind a glass door, pretending to weep

December 18th, 2018

Dog/door/pretend-weeping research by Julia Meyers-Manor:

(Thanks to the QI Elves for bringing this video to our attention.)

Recent progress in ‘My Little Pony’ studies

December 17th, 2018

“This dossier represents a selection of papers presented at the first academic conference on My Little Pony (MLP), held at the University of Brighton in June 2014.”

Of the papers generated as a result of the conference, a small selection are published in the Journal of Popular Television, Volume 3, Number 1. They are:

From toys to television and back: My Little Pony appropriated in adult toy play , pp. 99-109(11). Author: Dr Katriina Heljakka (University of Turku)

“Research suggests that adults are increasingly widening the doors to their toy closets and demonstrating various play patterns (Heljakka 2013b). Toys, including MLP characters, are collected, cherished, customized, have stories created for them, are cosplayed, and communicated about. Everything starts with a toy character’s appearance, the moment the player falls in love with it through interaction, which can be all about visual engagement even before any manipulation, or object play, happens.”

It’s Ok to be joyful? My Little Pony and Brony masculinity, pp. 111-118(8). Author: Mikko Hautakangas (University of Tampere)

“Bronies, the adult male fans of the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010–), have raised controversy in public discussions and on the Internet: male interest in something so obviously non-masculine seems to call for some kind of explanation, for instance, as a sexual subculture or as one more ironic Internet meme.”

My Little Pony, tolerance is magic: Gender policing and Brony anti-fandom, pp. 119-125(7). Author: Bethan Jones (Aberystwyth University)

“The gendered nature of criticism in relation to female fans of ‘feminine’ texts has been explored by a number of scholars, but male fans of texts aimed at women, girls in particular, have been understudied in comparison.”

Finding Bronies – The accidental audience of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, pp. 127-134(8). Author: Dr Claire Burdfield (Sheffield University Management School)

“While much critical scholarship has been devoted to the way that media companies undertake extensive market research to target their products to specific demographic segments, this article concentrates on the way that untargeted and unexpected viewers have coalesced around certain television programmes, and become the ‘accidental audience’. “

The classical world is 20 per cent cooler: Greco-Roman pegasi in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, pp. 135-143(9). Author: Jen Cresswell  (University of St Andrews)

“In a fantasy world, the animators and writers are free to construct realms with no constraints except their own imaginations. Any decision made is deliberate, including the choice to incorporate Greco-Roman iconography in the depiction of the pegasi tribe in the television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010–). Why were these civilizations chosen for this type of horse, and what does this tell us of the audience preconceptions of the Ancient cultures of Greece and Rome?”

Also see:
Recent progress in Wonder Woman studies
Recent progress in Kung Fu Panda studies
Recent progress in Quidditch studies (part 3)

When seafood scientists became food-poisoned by their own holiday seafood

December 15th, 2018

Having failed to perish, they proceeded to publish.

Serendipity and not-careful-enough cooking technique by Norwegian shellfish scientists (for their own Christmas gathering) led to a nasty illness for two-thirds of their group, which led to a biomedical investigation, which led to a published scientific study about it all, which led to a report in Forskening.no which begins:

When seafood scientists became food poisoned by their own seafood
There was a skew when seafood scientists were to arrange their own Christmas table—Then the pursuit of the answers began.

Friday 13th of December 2013: It is morning and Arne Duinker is in full swing making the food that he and colleagues have to enjoy on the Christmas table a few hours later.

Doves, a daily seafood scientist, have allied themselves with a few colleagues and some professional seafood chefs.

Little do they know that something is going to be terribly wrong.

“This was the first Christmas table where we decided to make seafood for everyone, and we should do it ourselves,” said Duinker.

In 2013 he was working at the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Institute (NIFES), which has today become a part of the Institute of Marine Research (HI)….

(Thanks to Kjell Ivar Øvergård for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Basic info about norovirus, the little protagonist in this drama.



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