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.”

Recent progress in Kung Fu Panda studies

May 21st, 2018

In 2008, the launch of the Kung Fu Panda© film series kicked off a series of opportunities for in-depth academic study across the globe. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of progress in Kung Fu Panda studies over the last ten years or so :

• Kung Fu Panda: Animated Animal Bodies as Layered Sites of (Trans)National Identities The Velvet Light Trap, issue 69.

• Highlights for the Construction of a Didactic Discourse Focused on the Learning Subject in “Kung Fu Panda” Animation Studies and Current Trends in Science of Education, pp 121-130.

• Translation Methods Used in Writing Indonesian Subtitles of “Kung Fu Panda Holiday” Nurmallah, Vol 2, No 2.

• The Analysis on the Chineseness of Kung Fu Panda Journal of Qinghai Nationalities University (Education Science Edition), 2010-01.

• The Gene Culture Applied in the Animated Cartoons in “Kung-fu Panda” Art & Design 2008-08

• Procedural Fracturing and Debris Generation for Kung-Fu Panda SIGGRAPH 2008, Los Angeles, California.

• Adoption, Cynical Detachment, and New Age Beliefs in Juno and Kung Fu Panda Comparative Literature and Culture, 2017

• The Western Gaze in Animation: A Case Study of Kung Fu Panda Journal of Content, Community & Communication (Amity School of Communication) Vol. 6 Year 3, June – 2017.

• A Study on the Modification of Characters` Role and Desire in Series Animation : focusing on the case of Kung Fu Panda Series Animation Cartoon and Animation Studies, 2016, pp 77-102.

• Kung-Fu Panda Philosophy – The Solution For Diminishing Competitive Pressure in Children Proceedings book of 16th European conference of sport psychology: Sport and exercise psycholgy [sic] : Human performance, well being and health.

• Kung Fu Panda, Go Home!  The China Beat, July 2008.

Alternate histories of the universe

May 19th, 2018

There are many alternate histories of the universe. Here are two.

A Briefer History of the Universe

Eric Schulman’s 60-second-long History of the Universe began as a print piece (“A History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less,” in the Jan/Feb 1997 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research), had its first public performance as part of the 1997 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, was expanded into book form (a publisher, in the audience that night, solicited Schulman on the spot to write it), and has been performed many times.

The original 200-word version was eventually translated into many languages, by volunteers on various parts of the planet Earth. Much of that Universal History Translation Project survives, still, on the Internet Archive.

You can see video of a special performance at the National Science Foundation:

A Dominoic History of the Universe

Recently, the Scope of Science web site created a more expanded history of the universe, involving dominoes. Here’s video of that (thanks to Scott Langill for bringing it to our attention):

Plain-words challenge: Wedding Words

May 18th, 2018

Today’s challenge is to translate a paragraph into clear language that anyone can understand. This paragraph appears in the study “Consumption as common sense: Heteronormative hegemony and white wedding desire,” by Patricia Arend [pictured here], published in the journal Journal of Consumer Culture [vol. 16, no. 1, 2016, pp. 144-163]:

“[This] article examines the white wedding desires of women who experience them as common sense. I use Ludwig’s concept of heteronormative hegemony to provide a more thorough account of both gendered subject formation and white wedding desire. In this analysis, women’s social consumption of mass media, embodiment of gendered habitus as taste and ritualized conversations with other women are particularly salient.”

Portrait of a Self-Recognized Genius: Jordan B. Peterson

May 18th, 2018

Jordan B. Peterson, one of the world’s great self-recognized geniuses, gets a warm appreciation in The New York Times. Nellie Bowles writes:

Mr. Peterson, 55, a University of Toronto psychology professor turned YouTube philosopher turned mystical father figure, has emerged as an influential thought leader….

[He says some people want] to eliminate hierarchies, which he says are the natural order of the world. In his book he illustrates this idea with the social behavior of lobsters. He chose lobsters because they have hierarchies and are a very ancient species, and are also invertebrates with serotonin. This lobster hierarchy has become a rallying cry for his fans; they put images of the crustacean on T-shirts and mugs.

Professor Peterson boiled down his thoughts about lobsters. The boiled mass is served up in Professor Peterson’s paper called “The Functional Neuroanatomy and Psychopharmacology of Predatory and Defensive Aggression.”

BONUS (possibly unrelated): The 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Gordon PennycookJames Allan CheyneNathaniel BarrDerek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” [published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10, no. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563].